A Contemporary Take on a Traditional Symbol

Puzzle Piece Mandala

Carmi Weingrod at Shift Gallery through May 27th, 2017

Writing: Stephanie Hargrave – Editing: Cynthia Hibbard

Carmi Weingrod’s new body of work is titled Imperfect Harmony, Mandalas for a chaotic world. She has thoughtfully re-interpreted a traditional symbol, and successfully bridged the gap between the ancient and the contemporary with both her use of materials and language.

The word “mandala” means “circle” in Sanskrit, and symbolizes unity, infinity, and a universe in perfect order. Its ritualistic importance in Hinduism and Buddhism is widely known, and there are few of us who aren’t impressed with the sand mandalas made by Tibetan monks. The word also commonly symbolizes any diagram or chart representing the cosmos or any design work that is circular in form. The mandala has even made its way into modern fashion design – all takes on the original meaning of the word.

Weingrod’s interpretation, however, depicts an inharmonious universe, one that she says is “out of whack.” And while it is hard to speculate what specifically is out of whack, there is no shortage of chaos. That said, Weingrod has done something beautiful in the face of this chaos, or perhaps because of it.

Using rounds of beautifully made paper from India, Weingrod has created works that are intriguing but also comforting. Her abstract vocabulary of stenciled shapes invite these circles to embrace asymmetry. A host of mixed media techniques allow her to convey a different kind of harmony – one that is, as she says, imperfect but still in balance. Some of the pieces utilize printmaking techniques, others are pierced with an etching needle, all white and framed. My personal favorites are the unframed rounds with rich spots of ink on the luscious, warm paper. They possess an earthiness that harkens to the past, but also feel contemporary and soothing. Perhaps that was her goal – to lend a little respite from our current, modern state of chaos.