Arts & Culture

Comfortable on canvas or concrete

After years of doing mostly commissioned art, Heather Taylor-Zimmerman has found her form: the mandala.

“People would ask, ‘If you could do your own work, what would you do?’ ” said Taylor-Zimmerman, whose “Uplifting Future” is on the cover of the map for Arts Walk XXXVIII. “Over a decade, I would always say, ‘Mandalas.’ And I’ve finally done them, and it’s more wonderful than I would have imagined.”

A mandala is a concentric diagram having spiritual and ritual significance in both Buddhism and Hinduism. You can try your hand at making one before the Procession of the Species: Taylor-Zimmerman will lead the creation of a chalk mandala at the intersection of Legion Way and Capitol Way starting at 2:30 p.m.

“Mandalas are a tool for healing, aligning humanity and the earth, the individual and the group,” she said. “Mandalas in some variation are true to all cultures. It’s an important cross-cultural heritage to reclaim.”

So why isn’t “Uplifting Future” a mandala?

Taylor-Zimmerman’s latest series of works, which she calls “iconic mandalas,” combines elements of both religious icons and mandalas.

Her Arts Walk cover piece is colorful and graphic, with echoes of folk art, but it was carefully constructed with layers and layers of symbolism and meaning. It depicts what she calls the human trinity — mother, father and child — in a secular context.

“The mother and father, who aren’t necessarily biological parents, are swinging the child up,” she said. “In the background are the hands of children and adults of different races, holding up the earth. That echoes the theme of ‘Uplifting the Future.’ It’s a collaborative effort, and it will take an effort.”

The piece also includes representations of the elements of earth, air, fire and water, as well cultural symbols, many incorporated in a patchwork quilt.

The street mandala will be less carefully planned.

“It’s a balance of giving people ownership of the process but not giving them so few details that they feel uncomfortable working together,” she said. “I will do a basic overlay of symbolic concepts with some geometric design but leave a lot of space for creativity.

“Collective art is important, and we don’t have a lot of opportunities for that. I’m very much a proponent of the artist in everyone. I think art is by its nature transformative.”

How did Taylor-Zimmerman come to be a featured part of both Arts Walk and the Procession of the Species?

Well, to begin with, she created the mural of the procession found in the alley across from The Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

“That really speaks directly to how we present the procession,” said procession founder Eli Sterling. “It’s wonderful when we get to see our local artists presenting their work in a really public way.”

He said the mandala is intended to inspire new ideas in the free-form chalk drawings people create.

Taylor-Zimmerman said, “It’s a great opportunity. I was honored.”

The artist also is thrilled that her work was chosen for the Arts Walk cover.

“Often, there’s a lack of places to display artwork of a spiritual nature because we live in a secular society,” she said. “But I try to look at the unifying aspects of religion.”

Arts Walk XXXVIII

When: 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Downtown Olympia

More information: 360-753-8380. Maps and listings of venues and artists are available at participating businesses and at The Olympia Center, 222 Columbia St. N.W.

Heather Taylor-Zimmerman

What: See “Uplifting Future,” the painting featured on the Arts Walk XXXVIII cover, and more.

Where: Mansion Glass, Washington Street Arts, 117 Washington St. N.E.

Also: Her work is part of a larger show called “4 Women Awakening;” the others are past Arts Walk cover artist Jennifer Kuhns, Toni Lawrence and Loralin Toney.

Hold the Earth Street Mandala

What: Taylor-Zimmerman will lead the creation of a mandala that will fill an intersection. Chalk will be provided.

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Legion Way and Capitol Way

Also: Chalk will be handed out for freeform street art beginning at 3:30 p.m. along the Procession of the Species route.

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