Q and A with Geoffrey Haun
Local artist Geoffrey Haun uses oil, watercolors, mixed media and photography to create artworks that seem to incorporate both spiritual and aesthetic qualities. Earlier this year, Haun sold his gallery to spend three months in the Peruvian Amazon, where he lived with the indigenous population and worked side-by-side with a few cultural associations.
DEIANIRA TOLEMA: How long have you been an artist?
GEOFFREY HAUN: Ever since I can remember.
DT: Why, exactly, do you make art?
GH: Pure enjoyment. I want to express the beauty of the world. I really like life and I have the ability to notice what other people tend to ignore. I want my art and my point of view to be available for everyone to see: this is the origin of my motivation. I also want to be engaged creatively with reality rather than just fall into it.
DT: Do you usually travel to get inspiration?
GH: I’m always inspired. Traveling to the Amazon was definitely very stimulating for me, though. And challenging. I’m constantly trying to acquire a wider, unlimited perspective over reality. What I look for is a deeper, universal expression of life itself.
I always wanted to see the jungle to experiment with low impact living. I feel very connected to nature and fully aware of how the actions of human beings affect the environment: what’s happening is that we are destroying our resources and we follow the rules of a lifestyle that can, by all means, be defined as totally wrong. You would be surprised, on the other hand, about how culturally advanced those people are and how healthy their way of life is.
DT: Tell me about your recent trip to the Amazon.
GH: I sold my gallery because I couldn’t afford to keep it open and stay there at the same time … The natives of the Amazon produce paintings, music and poetry and I made a few artworks myself to give form to my thoughts and share them.
DT: What was the most beautiful experience that you had in South America?
GH: Working with the nonprofit association Alianza Arkana that deals with indigenous rights, culture, traditions and language and the Chaikuni Institute of Culture, focused on cultural exchange.
DT: Did you have any contact with the local shamans (a leader considered to be the medium between the visible world and the spiritual world)?
GH: Yes, I took part in a ceremony organized by the Shipibo tribe, renowned for having the greatest healers specialized in herbal medicine. They know hundreds of plants and they claim to be able to treat tumors with natural remedies and rituals. Shamans are considered to be pretty powerful in their community, although that kind of power is not as an unethical as it is for us.
DT: Something that we know for sure is that shamans use drugs to reach a state of trance that allows them to evoke the forces of nature. What is your take on drugs and spirituality?
GH: Each person has to weigh the risks and rewards. In that situation I personally felt safe, because they have practiced those rituals for generations; therefore they know what they’re doing.
DT: Do the Shipibo make art?
GH: Yes, of course: textile, ceramics, design.
DT: What do they want to say with their art?
GH: Art for them is a depiction of the song of the plants, represented as superior, higher beings, teachers, doctors, masters. Their art is very abstract. The design is usually part of a song. We are inclined to consider plants as inanimate objects, but the truth is that the world is not just a commodity and it can be perceived differently.
DT: What are you going to do now that you’re back in Williamsport?
GH: I’m helping my father with his farm in Linden and I have a small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). People buy a piece of land … and they get whatever I harvest.
DT: Do you want to thank those who helped you with your trip?
GH: Yes, those friends of mine who bought some of my artworks to help me economically and made my dream possible. I saw the jungle, I lived in a truly wild area and I had the opportunity to face my fears and test myself spiritually. I feel very grateful.
Learn more and view photos from Haun’s trip by searching “Ankleroot Gallery Massage Studio” on Facebook.