Centuries-Old Spiritual Practice Gives One Artist — and Her Viewers — a Fresh Perspective on Life

A detail of 'Dots Dots Dots'

WHEN HOUSTON ARTIST Mari Omori traveled to Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 2018 to study the art of batik-making, she had no idea how life-changing the sabbatical would be.

In Omori’s contribution to the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia’s 2020 publication, US-Indonesia Relations in Words, she writes: “The strength and humility of my hosts, combined with the exquisite qualities of the island itself, and of course batik, transformed my soul in ways that I am still contemplating today.”

That transformation is the theme of Batiked Life!, an exhibit of batiks, photographs and works-on-paper Omori created during her two-month residency at the Babaran Segaragunung Culture House. Batiked Life! opens May 7 at G Spot Contemporary Art Space.

Omori arrived in Indonesia at the end of March, the rainiest month of the country’s aptly named “wet” season. “Whether you’re sitting or standing you sweat profusely,” laughs Omori who, having grown up in Japan, another high-humidity island, quickly adapted to the soggy climate. Mastering the art of batik-making took a little more time. Omori initially struggled to control the trajectory of melted wax as it dripped from a specially designed pen onto intricate patterns drawn on a cotton cloth. After much trial and error, Omori gradually developed the skill to create ambitious, large-scale, and highly personal batiks like “Five Directions,” in which four pairs of bare feet frame the edges of what could be a rippling pool of water, or a deep blue portal to another dimension.

“It’s a strange title, isn’t it?” laughs Omori of “Five Directions.” “I wanted to make something large but personal. So I traced my feet while standing in a kind of meditative state.” While many indigenous cultures view the world as having four directions, each with its own symbolic meaning, Omori imagined a fifth direction she might choose on her journey as “a spiritual being on a human path.” “Which way will I direct myself?” asks Omori. “Perhaps upward, not downward.”

'Five Directions'

A photo Omori took of her meditation spot in Indonesia


Omori, who has taught art as a professor at Lone Star College-Kingwood since 2001, and whose works are in several private and public collections, is delighted to be presenting such a personal exhibit in a gallery described by its owner as “a space with a decidedly grassroots approach to cultural exchange.”

Batik Life! gives Houstonians the opportunity to discover the “nature, rhythm and process” of batik-making, and consider the spiritual nature of this centuries-old artistic practice.

Related Articles Around the Web
Art + Entertainment
Top Realtor Beth Wolff Says Her Career Took Off ‘When I Focused on Others’
How did you get where you are today? “Life is what happens while you’re making plans.” After graduating with a BBA from the University of Texas, I married, and was a stay-at-home mom. Divorcing when my children were just four and six, I became their sole supporter, and I chose real estate for the time flexibility and income potential. After four years working for another Broker, I founded my own company with one sales associate and 375 square feet. Little did I imagine this journey. Houston offers amazing opportunities for those who are willing to work hard and persevere! I have watched the city mature with the addition of all the wonderful, talented people from around the country and around the world who have made Houston their home. It was once said that Houston had a “can do, cowboy capitalism attitude.”
Keep ReadingShow less

WHEN TEXAS PHILANTHROPIST Kristi Schiller had crippling migraines, bouts of transient amnesia and speech problems at age 50, she chalked it up to old age. But the incidents got worse, and one time she forgot how to get home.

“After the issues continued a while, I thought I had a brain tumor,” says Schiller. A few weeks later, she noticed loss of motor skills and coordination, and after experiencing a serious fall, an MRI revealed she had suffered from multiple strokes. “It was 2021 and in the wake of Covid-19, so it took 12 hours waiting at Methodist Hospital to be admitted, but I was glad I was getting treatment,” says Schiller. At that point, she didn’t even remember her name or how to write.

Keep ReadingShow less
Wellness+Giving Back

"PAINTING, MORE THAN half it, isn’t actually putting brush to paint,” says 27-year-old Houston-born artist Grayson Chandler, who used to run cross-country, and believes there are many parallels between athleticism and creativity. “A lot of it is just sort of seeing, watching and looking. Like a basketball player dribbling a ball before they take a shot, or a golfer teeing up and getting their feet right. Before you dive in, know where you’re going to land.” For Chandler, that means a new collection of mysterious, beautifully composed watercolor and gouache paintings titled In Via, which lands at Deborah Colton Gallery on July 16.

Keep ReadingShow less