A small number of images in this book do not contain a sky. While the skies in some of the images have been left as they were found, the majority of them have been chosen specifically for that image. Similarly, in a majority of images the sky holds equal importance with the land or the sea. In a few of the images the sky is more important; it is the subject of the image. That’s true of this image.
Avra is one of those magical images that practically made itself. It took me completely by surprise. It resolved itself very quickly and remains one of my freshest images to date. It was a breakthrough. I had no intention of making it. It found me. I was sorting through images on a light table one day, looking for a replacement sky for another image, and I moved a small mirror from one side of it to the other. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something happening as I moved it. I moved the mirror back across the light table and found this image. Time and time again I find that being alive to the process, being sensitive to what unfolds as you engage the activity of creation, allows you to find unexpected riches. Ironically, I find that these “departures” are actually returns. At first these unplanned moves seem to be moves away from a vision or a personal direction, but uncannily I find that they actually bring us closer to a way of seeing that’s our own. It has nothing to do with accidents revealing something novel, something that’s new for the sake of being new. It has everything to do with allowing our unconscious reserves, our hidden resources, to well up and present themselves. Controlled abandon allows us to delve deeper into ourselves, into areas that have gone unseen, unrecognized, or unacknowledged.
Prior to this image, my use of symmetry defined broad planes, spaces, or environments. After this image, I also began using symmetry to define objects, mass, or figures. This image hovers in between the two poles. The strong contrast between the cloud and the sky defines a definite shape while at the same time the sky and cloud form a unified space. The configuration can be read as both very deep and dimensional or as flat and planar.
The sky was so dramatic, it needed no competition. A simple seascape offered the best support. It echoed the color. Even the highlights at the far horizon mirrored the luminous form dissolving into vapor and mist. And it provided a deep recession in space, making the configuration in the sky seem larger.
It is nearly impossible to read the image as just a cloud. I’ve had many discussions with people about what they see in this image — An angel, a high priestess, a phoenix, a sea monster, an x-ray, a harp, I love collecting all the stories and I’ve learned to see them all in this image. One of my favorites came from a four-year-old boy who exclaimed, “It’s a giant sneeze!” In his words I hear a humorous echo of a primary force at work in the image. Avra is Sanskrit for breath.