Aspiring yogis and curious connoisseurs of contemporary art, unite! Second Street Gallery is hosting another installment of the monthly Second launched in the fall of 2014. A collaboration between Opal Yoga and Second Street Gallery, each event in the series is “its own unique happening, a collusion of artist, art, curation and a particular teacher’s class, ” said Opal Yoga owner and instructor, Karen Thomas.
Having a hard time picturing what it’s like to stretch and sweat in the white box of the gallery? Though galleries and museums are sometimes seen as pristine venues that don’t allow visitors to touch anything, contemporary art and yoga actually have plenty in common. “Both disciplines require going into the zone to complete the process and bring something from that place back into the world, ” said Second Street’s Tosha Grantham. “Everyone has the freedom to engage.” In fact, the partnering of yoga with contemporary art begins to seem quite natural the more one thinks about it.
“While our art cannot, as we wish it could, save us from wars, privation, envy, greed, old age, or death, it can revitalize us amidst it all, ” wrote renowned author Ray Bradbury. So too, yoga.
Grantham views the collaboration as an opportunity for “expanding into art-friendly communities that may not visit the gallery on a regular basis, but had expressed interest.” Similar events take place at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke and plenty of other arts venues around the state. In fact, Second Street Gallery is participating in an informal movement to invite people into galleries for more than just art. Exploring and expanding the idea of the gallery as a community art space, many galleries around the world are opening their doors to diverse programming like yoga, dance classes and other non-traditional events. Not only do activities like these begin to wear away at perceived barriers to cultural experiences, they also provide new ways to engage with art.
And local instructors keep this in mind while planning the sessions at Second Street. Thomas confirms this as one of the foundational ideas of the series. “The idea is to encourage teachers to spend some time at the gallery with the exhibit that they’ll be teaching, with the suspicion that the art will consciously and unconsciously inform the yoga classes in terms of poses offered, philosophical themes, and musical selections, ” she said. Lynsie McKeown is owner of Awakening Balance Yoga and will lead the February 14 yoga session. An important part of McKeown’s planning is “visiting the gallery to view the art and learn more about the artist in order to gain inspiration for the flow that I’ll be teaching.”
McKeown is shaping her lesson around an exhibit of new work by Yeni Mao, titled “The Conqueror.” Mao is a Canadian-born artist who studied at The Art Institute of Chicago and now lives and works in New York. He has exhibited and participated in residencies around the world.
Featuring Mao’s most recent work—some pieces completed just a few days ago—this exhibit is centered on an exploration of Genghis Khan. Well, not exactly the Great Khan himself. Rather, Mao reflects, “I would say the interest lies not in actually Genghis Khan but the representation of his story.” As he focused on three films about Genghis Khan that were made in the last six decades, Mao found that “they became markers of time themselves, because the era they were made in was written all over them. I mean, the great John Wayne in yellowface, it’s comical. Of course, it’s a history that is somewhat fictionalized. I wanted to look at that fictionalization, and in turn, do it once again myself.”
To provide structure in this examination, Mao used the Fibonacci number sequence as a lens to distort and filter each film, challenging the narrative represented in each as well as the historical veracity of beliefs about Khan.The resulting video, sculpture and letterpress prints are literally, as well as symbolically, layered and complex.
Even if you have visited the gallery recently, the yoga event is an opportunity to experience the work anew. “Working at SSG, I see the exhibitions every day but getting on the mat with instruction inspired by the exhibition, allows for a totally new perspective and experience of the artwork, ” said Second Street’s outreach and operations manager, Erica Barnes. The current exhibit should be no exception to this.
Second Saturday Yoga Art Grooves will take place at Second Street Gallery on February 14 from 3-4:15pm. For additional details or to reserve your spot in advance, visit Walk-ins are also welcome. The gallery will remain open to visitors who are interested in viewing the exhibit without participating in the yoga event, and Yeni Mao’s work exhibited in “The Conqueror” will remain on display through February 28 during normal gallery hours.