The abstract paintings on exhibit at 707 Penn Gallery might not seem impressive at first glance: a conglomeration of dark shapes and wavy lines in chaotic collision, resembling perhaps a child's crayon drawings. Yet on closer look, artist Teresa M. Harris's paintings reveal a depth and energy befitting the exhibition's title, Meditation Relates to Physics = Art.
"These are the visions I see when I am meditating," says Harris, a newcomer to Pittsburgh and an adjunct professor at La Roche College. "If you look at the images from the Hubble Space Telescope, that's what I see in meditation. As an artist, I can visualize the imagery that connotes to the innovations of time, space, mass, energy and light."
The cosmological qualities of Harris' paintings are apparent: Swirls of black, grays and blues blend toward the center, with geometric shapes -- circles, squares, diamonds -- fused with brightly colored strokes. Harris says such imagery is universal: "You can find geometrics in Swedish quilts, in Chinese temples, and in Native American art."
Harris describes her art as "the sky to Van Gogh's land."
"If you look at Van Gogh's 'Starry Night,'" she says, "you see that he is influenced by lights, too. The only difference is that he is land-based, and I am the sky." In a work titled "All Interconnected -- Each is Interrelated," smoky blacks spiral with bright blues and subdued oranges into the center, suggesting the swirling clouds of "Starry Night." Both radiate a flow that keeps the viewer's eyes moving.
Harris started getting her visions in 1994, and believes they are related to her strict vegetarian, raw-food diet. Inspired by Japanese scientist Michio Kaku, a best-selling author specializing in string-field theory, Harris explored the connection between cosmology and creation. "I want to know about the origin of our DNA," says Harris. "We are all interconnected, and looking at the stars is for me a way of getting back to the beginning, to recognize our need for meditation, and live spiritually despite all the challenges out there."
The artist hopes her imagery will bring viewers to a peaceful and meditative place: "I would like my work to be healing for people. When people are anxious, they turn on the radio, or look for soothing music. Cosmology and art is the same." Harris, who has studied color theory, believes visions are related to health and mental states: "Anxiety is red and darks, euphoria is orange and yellows and pastels. My artwork on display is related to my introspective state."
Harris is also interested in representing higher powers in her art. In a painting titled "Angel," a dark swirling mass spirals from red tints into white toward a diamond center, which the artist describes as the way her angel appears. Another painting, "Presence of God," is inspired by the Choctaw tribe, using its tribal symbols as motifs.
"I actually had the vision of looking at God," Harris recalls. "I was completely awake. I walked up and I could put my hand through the visions -- it was translucent and transparent."
Meditation Relates to Physics = Art continues through Sept. 27. 707 Penn Gallery, 707 Penn Ave., Downtown. 412-325-7017 or www.pgharts.org