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From Brunswick to Bali

Story By Kelley Morris

Local Photography By Keith Ketchum

Bali Photography By Kelley Morris

 In the fall of 2009 I had the good fortune of being selected to be one of 12 participants to live as an Artist-In-Residence in the PurnatiCenter for the Arts in Bali, Indonesia.

 Although I explore many art mediums, I am primarily an oil painter, living in HoldenBeach and frequently traveling along the eastern region of the states to exhibit my artwork. But I had never traveled this far from BrunswickCounty — to land on the other side of the globe, in beautiful Bali.

I lived at the PurnatiCenter for the entire month of November, with the intention of creating a new body of work inspired by my time there. I had no phone, no computer, no television and no obligations other than to be open to new creative ideas and inspirations and to express them onto canvas. I taught a few painting classes to Balinese students as well, as part of the exchange, but I am sure that what I learned from this gentle, soul-filled culture and the kindest, most welcoming people I’ve ever encountered far exceeds what I offered them in return. It is difficult to put a month of multi-layered experiences into an article, but I hope the following excerpts from my journal entries will give you a little glimpse into life on another shore.

 Arrival and First Impressions

The Flight Itinerary: Raleigh–JFK–Vancouver–Hong Kong–Denpasar, Bali I feel as if I’m about to step off the end of the world as I begin this month-long journey. My itinerary is two pages long and includes 24 hours of flight time (!), one-way, not including layovers. I’m seeing a bright, full moon outside my window on the right side of the plane, and the sun shining on the left side, simultaneously: a beautiful contrast that makes me feel like I’m being escorted by the Universe and seems to promise good things to come.

 Wayan (my driver), chatted away in surprisingly good English as he whisked me away from the airport and dodged the traffic for the 45-minute trip to Batuan, where the Purnati Art Center is located. We came INCHES away from numerous motorbikes, everyone cutting each other off in order to somehow merge together on the narrow, congested roads. But somehow it all works … and without a single impatient, angry horn.

 I was greeted at the center with a brief tour of the sprawling, lush, well-maintained grounds, my luggage taken up to my “bungalow,” handed a refreshing lime-spritzer and invited to take a dip in the pool before dinner. A month of this could be very nice.

 Each day I experience a new layer of sensory overload: In the mornings I wake up to a combination of smoke and incense heavy in the air. The smoke is due in part to the daily offerings the Balinese make to their gods (Hindu/ Buddhist). These gifts are made in gratitude to the gods for maintaining balance and order.

 As I sat on my balcony, one of the grounds keeper’s came around and gathered all the jasmine flowers that had fallen to the ground during the night. Nothing here is wasted.

 It is quiet, but in a different way than it is at home. Even the “silence” here is somehow abundant. I have begun to tune in to the distant surround-sounds of dogs, roosters, children’s laughter, motorbikes, birds, geckos, crickets, bees, the wind blowing in the lofty palm fronds, prayers being chanted, chimes, the water flowing in the nearby river, and the carnival-like horns, honking the approach of a food cart moving down the side road selling popular snacks.

 I am also surrounded by rich texture, elaborate carvings, gold-leaf painted doors and other decorative architecture, terraced rice fields, temple points and sculptures peaking out among a profusion of vegetation. And more shades of green than I’ve ever seen in my life! Given my purpose here, I am almost intimidated by the lush surroundings. How will I ever be able to convey this saturated beauty onto a piece of canvas?

 I need a break … so I ventured outside the gate today, passing the humble neighboring homes, chickens pecking the ground, children dressed and waiting in school uniforms, and open doorways that revealed the simple earthen floors inside people’s homes, a porthole to another world.

Painting

Painting here is an adventure in itself! Without my studio equipment and assortment of supplies at hand, I use available resources around me, “stretching” canvas with pushpins, using an empty water bottle to hold turpentine, a large banana leaf as “palette paper” on which to mix my paints, and an easel quickly constructed from found bamboo poles tied together with string into a tepee shape with a horizontal bar — it holds the painting beautifully. The staff has become my giggling, willing set of models when I need a figurative reference; they are my audience as well, watching me paint for long intervals, giving me the thumbs up, and asking questions about subject matter and technique. My hope is to complete six to eight paintings during my time here, then have plenty of references to continue the work once I return home.

 During a trip to Padang Bali, a little fishing port on the eastern side of the island, I took a workshop in the technique of batik, a fascinating method of dying designs into fabrics using a wax-resist. I can’t wait to incorporate this into my artwork at home!

 Humbled

During a recent day-trip on the ArtCenter’s bicycle, I came across an open- air woodcarving studio, where several young men were carving decorative details into doors. It takes them two to three months to complete one door. The artisan work just blows me away. So much attention, time, care and physical labor goes into their craft. As a result, there is a depth and exceptional richness in their creations, made all the more attractive because of the slight imperfections. Interesting that in America, we are more captivated by ease and what can be accomplished in NO time. The time and energy is not always appreciated, but more often passed over for something sleek and simple.

 I stumbled upon a textile factory during another of my bike excursions. The equipment and method of making their hand dyed and hand-woven fabrics is tedious and, some would say, primitive, taking three to four months for a single meter to be completed. But the results are exquisite. Their creations have more to do with a sense of pride and meaningful process than work and product. I am continually humbled by their poignant approach to life and labors of love.

 The easy temperament of the Balinese is affecting my own way of being, and of seeing. I breathe more deeply, move more slowly, with intention, thoughtfulness. The other day, I sat for half an hour, mesmerized by a lotus flower.

Anachronisms

During a recent day-trip on the ArtCenter’s bicycle, I came across an open-air woodcarving studio, where several young men were carving decorative details into doors. It takes them two to three months to complete one door. The artisan work just blows me away. So much attention, time, care and physical labor goes into their craft. As a result, there is a depth and exceptional richness in their creations, made all the more attractive because of the slight imperfections. Interesting that in America, we are more captivated by ease and what can be accomplished in NO time. The time and energy is not always appreciated, but more often passed over for something sleek and simple.

 I stumbled upon a textile factory during another of my bike excursions. The equipment and method of making their hand dyed and hand-woven fabrics is tedious and, some would say, primitive, taking three to four months for a single meter to be completed. But the results are exquisite. Their creations have more to do with a sense of pride and meaningful process than work and product. I am continually humbled by their poignant approach to life and labors of love.

 The easy temperament of the Balinese is affecting my own way of being, and of seeing. I breathe more deeply, move more slowly, with intention, thoughtfulness. The other day, I sat for half an hour, mesmerized by a lotus flower.

Surfing

My last couple of days in Bali, I had to check out notorious Kuta, the rebellious side of Bali. If is a surfer’s playground and a s40hour nightclub for those with endurance. Narrow streets are chocked with traffic and souvenir stalls, then open up to more sophisticated shops and restaurants up the road. The beach is beautiful, the waves coming in shapely sets, small and large, depending on where you’re located on the crescent shore. About every 10 steps, a very laid back vendor-dude offered to rent me a choice surfboard. I couldn’t leave Bali, a renowned surging spot, without catching e whole day. At the beach to Billy’s Beach that evening , located right on the beach that evening , located right on the beach that evening , located right on the sand, consisting of an umbrella, 10 plastic chairs and a cooler with “Billy” marked on the side in permanent ink, filled with $1.50 bottles of Bintang beer, the local favorite. There, I watched my last sunset in Bali.

 At the end of the month, I left Bali with an oversized bag of rolled canvas, souvenirs and more stories than I could possible recount. Amazingly, once again, as I peered through that airplane window somewhere between Hong Kong and Vancouver, there was that full moon again, with the sun shining brightly on the other side.

 To hear more about the experience, or to view the paintings completed while in Bali, stop in the KD Morris Art Gallery. Or visit the website at www.kdmorris.net .

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