For Danmala, Arizona-based artist Kathy Klein constructs vibrant mandalas from organic materials, including flowers and produce gathered from her friends’ gardens as well as her own Cornville farm.
Klein is drawn to mandalas, the Hindu and Buddhist ritual symbol associated with cyclical nature life and the universe, for their ability to encompass the entirety of experience. In mandalas, she envisions everything from the orbits of an atom to those of our solar system. For the artist, the universal symbol pulls oneness from confusion, uniting all of creation within a single form. When she shuts her eyes, she explains, the mandala appears, and often she pulls her creations from recurrent dreams.
When creating her danmalas, which translates to mean “the giver of flower garlands” in Vedic Sanskrit, she isolates herself from distraction, which can come in the form of other people, noise, or disruptive weather. The process is organic and each danmala is constructed within a state of meditation, with her mind cleared of concrete thoughts. “It is a mystery to me each time about how they are realized,” she notes.
Klein selects building surfaces based on the ways in which they interact with her flora, preferring spaces that draw out the color and texture of the plants themselves. Although the flowers have been plucked or felled, the danmalas are a celebration of their life and vibrancy. Hibiscus and orchid blossoms, for instance, live only fleetingly, and by collecting those that have fallen, she is able to preserve them first within the mandala, an emblem of eternity, and later within the photographic frame.
All images © Kathy Klein