The Beauty of Soul

Being an image maker or thought presenter wields great power as history has shown. Generations have been defined by the images and ‘sayings’ that each has produced. Who doesn’t remember ‘where’s the beef?’ or ‘make love not war’. Think of the peace sign and people like Milton Glaser, Andy Warhol, Peter Max, Ferlinghetti, Robert Indiana and a host of others in all mediums who were masters of this skill. The arts have always reflected the society in which they have lived and have simultaneously responded to and led generations.

Contained within an artist’s repertoire are tools of seduction as well as meaning. We can very easily tickle the eye with color, shine, glitz, novelty of all sorts and give the impression of art while in fact it might contain very little of that. There is the appearance of art and then there is art. The modern day world contains both and is sometimes hard to distinguish. The art fair has taken on the modalities used by malls and retail philosophies for the ultimate goal of the sale. Of necessity the best galleries have mastered this form of influence.

But a little beyond that there is an enclave of something else that might be a bit more challenging in both its craft and intended meaning. To me this is the arena of the beauty of soul. It tends not to fit into the accepted showrooms of art but breaths its own life in its own way. While it may challenge and test the limits of our own understanding of meaning and beauty it contains traits and emotional content that is undeniable. I have seen from the gallery side, with my experience with the viewer or collector, that most aficionados of art are looking for something specific to fill a need within themselves. ‘This disturbs me, I could never live with that!’ is one familiar comment. ‘I have blue drapes and this would just fit so well in my room’ is another. ‘I really don’t want anything sad around me so these pieces definitely don’t work for me’ is another. So every exhibit or work of art has filters applied to it. YET when we go to the theater or read a book or listen to music the challenging elements and the fullness of the contrast enhances our experience.

So artists tend to adapt to the market seeking approval, which is a human need, and then develop mechanisms to feed that craving. The beauty of soul disregards the tendency of approval and imposes its own will on the world. Take it or leave it. In this ‘letting go’ is where I have seen the most moving work and in actuality the best people. It takes some effort to find but it is there alongside all of the other stuff we have come to call art. In a politically correct world where authentic ideas can be crushed for not following party lines I find originality and courage of high value. It takes courage these days to be true to yourself knowing that if someone is offended by your work all hell can break loose. But this might be the new price we have to pay for the Beauty of Soul.


image: in my ongoing quest to include notable work as the blog image I have focused on Mexican artist Javier Marin this week. I find his work amazingly compelling both from the making point of view as well as emotional content.


Artist WalkAround w/Kardash Onnig

Next Saturday, June 3rd, 3PM at Wisdom House Chapel, Litchfield, CT we will host an artist’s walkaround through the Transfourming Sorrow installation. Kardash Onnig will discuss the inspiration for this multi-sensory installation as well as take questions from attendees. A lively discussion will be guaranteed and the public is invited to attend.

The Wisdom House link is below with all of the details of the event.

Walkaround Link

Also tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a television segment on the installation and the link for live streaming  is also below.


Art as Experience

Today we open the Wisdom House installation with artist Kardash Onnig.The image above is where we began and I hope everyone can come during it’s 2 month duration to see where we ended. An ongoing interest that I have had as an artist and gallery owner is moving away from the idea of art as object and conceiving and creating art as experience; Liberating art from the gallery environment to something that is potentially more dynamic. It is not that far removed from a theater or concert experience. This event is an expression of place infused with an ensemble of sensory and tactile elements. It is an experiment. Creating a greater work of art with art fascinates me.

It is a new model in my path and future things like this are being planned. There will be a publication available and we are in the process of assembling a video documenting this event as well. Fingers crossed but sure is fun finding the edge and trying not to fall off .

Event Link

Discovering the Unknown

Because my primary world has been art, I often wonder about all of the unknown artists and true original thinkers that I/we will never know about because they have never sought the limelight and have been ignored by those who determine how to feed the public appetite. It is very apparent that the New Society consists of spoon feeding all of us the headlines of choice, the people of choice, while bombarding us with their point of view in the hopes we will sympathize with and accept this means of informing and influencing.

I see this happening in all fields and more intensely than ever. The availability of information, on one hand, gives us the feeling that we are missing nothing. We can easily find a media source to line up with what we think is our view. Is it possible to be groomed to think a certain way? Has the sophistication and science of ‘information presentation’ reduced our individual ability to know what we really think and feel? This, if true, has obvious societal implications which if done well would be almost invisible to us. This machine of dissemination would have and does control who and what we are aware of.

The other side of this feeling of ‘all knowing’ is the power of complete invisibility; keeping from our view ideas and people who are true original thinkers. This applies to all fields including art. We contend with what we see and are aware of. We never consider what has been kept from our awareness. It is there but we don’t see it so we remain just where we fit in, typically serving someone else’s point of view unconsciously. Significance in the arts and in society appears to be a few steps removed from the main flow of information and sympathetic resonance that it seeks from the individual.

Discovering the unknown matters more to me than ever. I dream of assembling these unknowns into one place, allowing points of views that I agree and don’t agree with, yet anyway. True art speaks loud and clear. It disrupts the accepted. Freedom of expression is just that; the freedom to speak, write or make without fear of retribution and for us in the arts Robert Mapplethorpe is a prime example. I find the rhetoric on the right and left on social media quite scary as the information controllers sway our emotions, seduce us into easy participation and rob us of our independence. The arts and philosophy and literature hold the best of who we are individually and as a society. Committing to that gives me hope. Making art changes the world.


Above in Image:

Dennis Oppenheim, Performance Piece 2000 – Interesting work and I have put the link to the site to see more.Interesting artist in my view.


Wisdom House Explores a New Medium with ‘Transfourming Sorrow’

LCT Monthly

Litchfield >> Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center in Litchfield has a history of presenting some of the most cutting-edge and challenging programs and exhibitions. It has always welcomed men and women who value soul searching and learning in a contemplative environment. The center has traditionally had a concern for contemporary issues and has been at the forefront of experimenting with new ideas and ways to present them. Now, with “Transfourming Sorrow,” conceived by multimedia artist Kardash Onnig, Spirituality Coordinator Sister Jo-Ann Iannotti and visual artist and curator Tony Carretta have mounted one of the Center’s most compelling presentations.

“Tony and I were having a discussion,” Iannotti recalls, “and we were talking about the interplay of contemplation and art. Then he made me aware of the artist Kardash Onnig and suggested that we exhibit his work. Here at Wisdom House we try to encompass all areas — spirituality, education, the arts, and the environment. We have presented artists for many reasons — to take our programs as well as to teach them. Julia Cameron was the first art experience we had. It enabled us to bring artists together for reflection on themselves and to be part of a community as they shared ideas from her book “The Artist’s Way.” That was in 1993. We realized what a wonderful experience we could offer and so we opened the gallery.”

Carretta started out as a sculptor and eventually founded the New Arts Gallery in Litchfield in 1996. Nestled on a country road, the structure typified a wonderful weathered barn, with two floors affording the perfect space to experiment with artists and their work. The rustic setting and the creativity Carretta lent to making the space unique made the gallery the go-to spot for interesting exhibitions. During its tenure, the gallery featured some of the most innovative and avant-garde artists. One such artist with whom Carretta established a rapport was Kardash Onnig. Onnig took his work out of the realm of the object itself and created statements.

“This exhibition is an offshoot of the creativity I have always pursued,” says Carretta. “Taking nontraditional spaces and doing things with art that create a kind of synergism that you can never get in an ordinary gallery situation. With Onnig’s exhibition we hope to illustrate some new magic and correlation between space, place, and the specific art.”

It is unusual for Wisdom House to turn its 10,000 square-foot, multilevel chapel into a gallery, but this is a golden opportunity to invite the public to an exhibition that has interactive moments and many thought-provoking elements. How does taking a space not meant for art, function in the moment?

“The main installation will occupy the first level of the chapel,” explains Carretta. “We will also use the small gallery which will act as an introduction to the big room. You are walking through this narrow space, a compressed state of feeling yourself and then suddenly you enter this wide-open area. The concept is that space or place has an implication, no matter what the situation.

“There will a drum representing a heart beat and a symphony of sounds to reflect each element. Pieces of objects will be hung above, symbolizing rising above your own internal sorrow. A place like the chapel implies both retrospection and introspection. There will be the interaction of the installation and the people around you who are experiencing the moment as well.”

Lebanese born artist Kardash Onnig has made a career out of utilizing his art as a means of illustrating the futility of human conflict while presenting the possibility of resolving differences through mutual responsibility and common self-interests. He looks upon “Transfourming Sorrow” as an invitation to not only grieve, but to transform our collective sorrow.

Onnig first produced “Transfourming Sorrow” two years ago at his 11-acre property in Stanfordville, New York. That event helped commemorate Onnig’s journey from his family’s survival of the Armenian genocide to his present life in America.

“I talk about grief,” says Onnig, “because it is a big issue for many of us. How do we come out of our grief? We are all full of our own history and we seem never to want to look at the other side. How can we translate our ability to examine ourselves to understanding others?”

Onnig believes that our way of communicating is the problem because we have so many different languages and so many different interpretations of events that happen to us. He wants us to understand the universality of grief by presenting certain images.

“My own quest for universality and transcendence began in earnest in the 1960s. That’s when I came to realize that the two-dimensional, linear tools of communication such as national alphabets, books, television, and movies are counterproductive in terms of the evolution of the human species.

“This realization led me to dedicate my life to the development of a three-dimensional mode of expression that would help foster transference between two others. My abiding goals have been to help break down cultural barriers, to cross borders, to melt down that which makes our fellow human beings ‘others,’ to transform sorrow into the miracle of universal rebirth through human kinship.”

Onnig has taken the idea of universality and created a three-dimensional communication system. It is comprised of four forms that have their genesis in the principle quaternary, the ancient symbol of creation. The four in his title represents all fours — the four seasons, the four primary elements of air, earth, water and fire, and the four disciplines of art, science, philosophy and spirituality. Each one is a lifeline.

The comprehension is in the visual. To see Onnig’s work is to suddenly understand his goal to accept grief and to understand its universality. His creation takes us on a quest for the answer to dealing with our own grief and accepting that of others. We suffer the same emotions and disappointments and in that alone there is a universal commonality.

“Transfourming Sorrow,” organized and curated by Tony Carretta, opens at Wisdom House, with a reception for the artist on May 20 from 3 to 7 p.m. There will be an informal walk through the exhibition with the artist on June 3 at 3:30 p.m. The exhibition runs through July 29.

For more information call Wisdom House at 860-567-3163 or visit

By Joseph Montebello,April28,2017

Presenting Yourself

Workshop this Weekend at AOTL

Presenting Yourself, The Art of Presenting One’s Art

Saturday, April 29, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm


Coming soon to Arts on the Lake

Presented by Tony Carretta

Artist, Gallery Owner, Dealer and author, Tony Carretta is giving this one day workshop. ‘Presenting Yourself’ will focus on critiquing each participants finished work on the basis of presentation and intent. While this workshop is a follow up to the recent ‘Invitation to a Hanging Workshop’, it is not necessary pre-requisite to this event.

How to present your work within the focus of your particular interest will be discussed in depth and actual resolutions will be explored with each participant. How to frame or present various mediums as well as how to present sculpture and 3-D work will be addressed. Each attendee should bring 1-4 pieces to the workshop to be discussed and examined as to its effectiveness and possible alternatives.

This workshop will enable each artist to participate in any public venue with more confidence and a focus on aligning your personality seamlessly with your finished works.

Register Link