Wabi Sabi at OHCA

“When we can look upon a
seemingly random work of our own
with interest in what happens to be there
(rather than what we wish to be there),
we will encounter the same fulfillment
as that experienced on an unknown wilderness trail.”

– Ann O’Hanlon


Each year, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts celebrates the
“Wabi Sabi” theme with a juried Gallery exhibit. 

O’Hanlon’s 16th Annual Wabi-Sabi Exhibit will be held from August 29–September 19, 2019 in the O’Hanlon Gallery, and will be juried by Phyllis Thelen.

View the Call for Entries

About the Juror:  
Phyllis Thelen is an experimental artist creating sculptural forms out of organic materials. 

She received her B.A. in Art from Connecticut College, and continued her education at the Art Institute of San Francisco, Dominican University of California, and the Miasa Bunka Center in Japan, where she studied with Toshi Yoshida.  Phyllis received an honorary Ph.D. from Dominican University in 2002.

Phyllis’ work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions at galleries and museums. These include two solo exhibitions: “Spirit Vessels”  at the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, and “Journeys of the Imagination” at the Morris Graves Museum of Art. She was also a featured artist in a group show at Arts Benecia, juried by Lawrence Rinder of the Berkeley Art Museum. Additional exhibitions include the Quilt and Textile Museums of San Jose, CA, the Napa Valley Museum, the Gallery Strasse in Japan, the Presidio of San Francisco, and Dominican University, Falkirk Cultural Center, and Art Works Downtown in San Rafael, CA. 

Phyllis is a Founder of Art Works Downtown, the Marin Ballet Association, and Youth in Arts. She chaired the San Rafael Cultural Affairs Commission, and has been listed in Who’s Who of American Women. In 2010 she was selected as “ Marin Master” for the Marin Art Festival and also received the Cultural Treasure Award from the Marin Cultural Services Commission.

Phyllis lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and has her studio at Mark Drive Studios in San Rafael, CA. www.thelenart.com

Wabi Sabi at O’Hanlon

One of the first in spotlighting this concept locally, OHCA was quick to recognize its particular resonance with the core philosophy the Center, with its emphasis on opening our senses to the natural world around us and of noticing and finding beauty in the simplest and least pretentious of its elements. Over these past years our exploration of this theme and its “thousand facets” has brought an increasing appreciation of its significance not only in our arts but in our lives.

We are grateful indeed to those artists who have participated in past exhibits and to those seekers who have shared our interests here, and we look forward to increasing the involvement and exchange.


An Introduction to Wabi-Sabi

To understand Wabi-Sabi, we have to grasp the concept that beauty is not in the object, but rather in the experience of it, – the mood, the atmosphere, the feeling it evokes, – a feeling that even the Japanese refuse to try to define.  Its scope is not limited to art but becomes an overall approach to life, to the magic of everyday living. In essence, it invites us to quiet contemplation, encouraging us to slow down, look closely and be patient.

Some of the elements involved are:

  • A less-is-more mindset, seeking simplicity, naturalness, restraint, appreciating the inconspicuous and unpretentious.
  • Attention not to what we have made or bought, but to what is there, what has been there all along, perhaps, without our notice. And noticing it!
  • An acceptance to turn away from our culture’s “straitjacket of perfection” (which leaves no room for the imagination) and turn instead to the mystery and uniqueness of the imperfect, the flawed, the incomplete.
  • A respect for the inevitability of change, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a special beauty in the impermanence of all things.

2019 Wabi-Sabi Workshops

The Way of Wabi Sabi w/Naomi Kubota Lee
Sunday, August 11 @ 3:00 – 6:00 pm

Naomi Kubota Lee’s wabi-sabi art website: NaomiLeeGallery.com

Wabi-Sabi Links

For further information and a broader perspective, the following references are suggested:

Leonard Koren’s books:

Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Wabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts

Background on Wabi-Sabi concepts http://nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm

Comprehensive essay on Wabi-Sabi http://www.hermitary.com/solitude/aesthetics.html

Photography http://www.stillinthestream.com/files/index.htm

FLICKR Wabi-Sabi photo groups www.flickr.com

Haiku http://rrpowell.homestead.com/files/blogger.html

For Writers http://www.stillinthestream.com/files/wabisabiforwriters.htm

Designers http://www.nextmaruni.com/e/concept/concept_3.html

Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi and the tea ceremony http://www.art.unt.edu/ntieva/artcurr/asian/wabisabi.html



Elaine Nehm