by Carla Occaso; photos by Michelle Wallace
PLAINFIELD — Each one is temporary. Each one comes from nature.
Michelle Wallace of Plainfield came into her own as an artist recently, and has gotten a positive reception for her work. Wallace has begun creating mandalas using flowers, leaves and twigs she finds in the woods. Mandalas are circular designs that traditionally represent the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism.
Wallace said she thinks she started delving into art as an antidote to the national political climate.
“After the whole election thing, it was hard not to go into a panic attack after listening to the news. I was like, ‘where do I land after this?’” She got involved in some activism, and reached out in other ways, including being involved with a women’s group of friends.
Creating art is “finding a way to respond to our world and trying to contribute something positive.”
It is a form of art that is so accessible. You can do with kids, friends, family, a circle of women,” Wallace told The Bridge during an interview this summer.
Wallace picks her subjects by using her senses when outside. She pays attention to what is growing in relation to other plants. She pays attention to her senses — smells, sounds — and symmetry.
She started making mandalas a few months before she invited a circle of women into her home to celebrate a big occasion. “This idea just came to me — my love of the plants … fascination of mandalas … I collect them and paint them,” Wallace said. “This all corresponded with my 40th birthday.”
As an herbalist, she had long had a kinship with plants, but suddenly she noticed the artistic beauty found in nature. “I was out in the woods and noticed the symmetry,” she said. Her very first mandala is made from the purple-colored shoots of a striped maple. “I never ever noticed how striped maple is in the spring. That is the heart and soul about what this is about — sharing beauty in the world.” The frame is is off center and the twigs reach out like sun rays to the upper right. “This is the first time I ever made one and it has just continued.”
Another she showed me is made of rosebuds with an open blossom in the center and a circle of petals around the outside.
Wallace has studied herbalism and is a gardener. Working with plants has opened her heart to the beauty of where we live. “These might invite people to notice the beauty all around us all the time especially in this troubled world we are in. These are temporary. They might last a few minutes if it is a windy day.” Each one usually lasts a few hours or a few days and then, she gathers the materials and casts them into the wind with a wish or an intention.
Local businesses have been supportive. Carrying her cards in Montpelier are Bear Pond Books, Splash, Salaam, Aro-med, Grian Herbs, Petals and Things, Sacred Vessel and North Branch Cafe. She is also going to have them juried to be displayed at The Artisan’s Hand. She also has works at Next Chapter Books in Barre, Plainfield Co-op and Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex and many more area stores.
Originally from San Diego, California, Wallace lives with her husband and 11-year-old son in Plainfield.