Spirits of Ubud

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30″ x 80″

Oil on Canvas

While flying home from Bali in 1994, all I could think about was the Balinese cremation ceremony that I had just experience the day before in the mountain village of Ubud. Balinese cremations are not a sad event, rather they are a loving remembrance of friends and family who are no longer here, and a display of joy that the loved ones are in a better place. The ceremonies are quite rare and are the focus of tremendous activity by the villagers for weeks beforehand. A cremation tower must be built, usually with ornate and colorful decorations to adorn it.
I arrived in Ubud to overwhelming loud and rhythmic sounds of people chanting and drumming and the sight of hundreds of others dressed in multi-colored batik sarongs. The coffin of the loved one was placed in a towering fierce-looking black and gold painted barong selected by the family. A barong is an earthly image of a good spirit that took the form of an animal as the guardian of the forest.

The cremation area was in a large grassy clearing surrounded by tall palm trees and bright green jungle foliage. In all the melee of activity I was feeling self-conscious about intruding on such a personal scene. I watched as offerings were placed. My emotions raced with the rapidly expanding heat wave as the barong with it’s giant mane caught fire. Sensory overload set in, and yet I was mesmerized by the bright sunshine and shadows, suffocating heat and humidity, and sweet perfumed smell of flowers and incense as I circled around in the smoke.
Upon my return that very day, I grabbed the first canvas in the studio. With paint I recalled my experience in a cubist/expressionist manner, not common for me at all. With paint tube in hand the circles of paint represent the spirit I felt at the cremation.

As a direct result of those 10 days in Bali, I found myself painting in primaries for a few years. A barong sets at the entrance of my studio to protect me from evil spirits.