By Sofia Bell
They are bold and bright and beautiful. Birds turn into faces and faces turn into birds that are water. Her landscapes are teetering pipe ribbons swooping into the horizon. UCSC art major Sara Avery’s paintings and prints might be the trippiest things you’ve ever seen, but they were created with Krishna in mind.
Avery is a member of the Krishna consciousness movement and calls herself an aspiring servant of Krishna. Krishna, whose name can translate into “all attractive,” is a personal conception of God—a supreme being whose dynamic traits and behaviors are founded in love. Sara Avery sat down with City on a Hill Press (CHP) to talk about how she broke down the representations related to Krishna consciousness in a print she recently created, and how Krishna consciousness has affected her life and her art.
CHP: Did you know you wanted to be an art major when you applied for college?
Sara Avery: No. It was more since the summer before college when I would spend a lot of time hanging out with my friends. All of them were really good at drawing but they wouldn’t necessarily draw very much, so I would give them pads of paper and we would all work on drawings together. I liked playing that role of encouraging everybody to draw because then everybody would be happy. It was a nice little time for everybody to work quietly and think—all experiencing the same activity without talking—like an actual quiet time, drawing time.
CHP: When did you become interested in Krishna consciousness?
SA: I became interested in Krishna consciousness that same summer before college when somebody dressed like an Indian monk gave me a book [the Bhagavad Gita]. I was in a place where I felt kind of alone and I had a lot of doubts about how sincere a lot of the relationships I had were. The book seemed to answer a lot of my questions. [It taught me that] it is possible to find something that does last forever, love that does last forever. It’s all there: I just have to work for it.
CHP: Can you tell me a little bit about this print?
SA: I designed it for a flier for an ongoing program that happens at the Vet’s Hall on Thursdays. The program introduces people to Krishna consciousness [called] Kirtan. It’s a two-block woodcut, and what’s curious about it is that the focus of the image happens to be the blank paper itself, it is a void in the image.
CHP: What does that represent?
SA: A lot of people imagine that everything they experience is an illusion and, fundamentally, behind everything there is just a void and they meditate on the void. In the Krishna consciousness conception, there is a bright light you can go into or a state of oneness with everything. Beyond that there is differentiation. So there is this void and around that there is this dynamic kind of world and then there are these hands [which] are from a person and that represent the idea that there is a supreme person who is actually underlying everything and there is consciousness underneath everything. But also since [the void] is the paper and the paper is a material thing I am experiencing, it [also] represents the material world and everything we know. Then all of that is encapsulated by these hands [which] gently cradle everything. This goes along with the main term “Krishna consciousness.” I aspire to change my consciousness so that I am aware of Krishna in everything and everywhere.
CHP: How do your aspirations as an artist help serve your aspirations for Krishna consciousness?
SA: I feel like the reason I’m involved in Krishna consciousness is that I [received] some mercy, somebody reached out to me and made it available to me and for whatever reason I feel really lucky that I have faith in it. One of the things that makes it so appealing is that whatever you know how to do, you can do that and offer it to Krishna. You offer the results of your activities to Krishna and that’s the practice of Krishna consciousness, offering your activities instead of doing it for yourself. School has given me the opportunity to practice [art] skills so that if Krishna needs a certain project done, then I can do that service—if I was really good at cooking, I would do that for my service. I believe that there will be plenty of opportunities in my life when I will be needed to do art because at the temple there aren’t many people that [are knowledgeable] of art.
CHP: How will Krishna consciousness and art play into your future?
SA: I’ll probably be poor for the rest of my life, not because I’m an artist but because I need to serve Krishna and not take things for myself. Even if I never get to do art again and I end up doing something else, everything is still going to be wonderful because the prospect of trying to be Krishna conscious forever is totally appealing. [It] seems like the hardest thing in the world to do, but also the most worthwhile.