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Thursday, August 25, 2011

1000 Words: Kwan Yin, or – A View from the Other Side of the Makeup Brush


It was another cool, late Spring day in Chicago when I opened the door of my Hobbit Hole to cast member Kat O’Connor and Stephen Pettinga, Ruby Sara’s wonderfully talented husband in his guise as Fabulous Photographer-On-Loan. They were there to prep for an early afternoon shoot of the goddess Kwan Yin (and later, Freya) for the 2011 Goddess Calendar Project.

I was asked earlier to apply Kat’s makeup for the shoot, and couldn’t have been happier to oblige. Kat’s eyes are amazing, and proved a wonderful canvas on which to play out my cosmetologist fantasy. The chance to transform our resident “Tiger Lily” into a kinder, gentler feline was a real treat as well.

Kwan Yin by Stephen Pettinga © 2011
Soft. Warm. Pale. With a hint of Asia, please! – is what Kat requested for her makeup. And as I applied those qualities through color and shade upon her face, I worked to bring out the goddess in the woman as well. We talked about Kwan Yin’s beauty and grace; her calm and healing presence. A white cloak (beautifully crafted by Amy Christensen), and a green bottle representing the Water of Life helped transform Kat into this female bodhisattva. The goddess Kwan Yin was indeed present.

Kat is a professional actor and photographer in her own right, so when she suggested a more urban setting for the Kwan Yin photographs, I knew she was on to something. As a goddess of mercy and compassion, I couldn’t think of a better location than Rogers Park in Chicago to honor Kwan Yin’s gifts; her much-needed benevolence was momentarily bestowed upon us brick-and-mortar mortals of the Far North Side. We walked around the corner of the street, and found a venerable Chicago three-flat doorstep to take the pictures.

In the doorway, the early afternoon light mixed beautifully with shadow. Kat was radiant and reflective in her interpretation of Kwan Yin. Stephen took shot after shot as I lent my set of arms to the goddess; the extra arms representing Kwan Yin’s quest to free as many sentient beings as possible from the bonds of samsara. In this, I think it would be safe to say, “The more arms; the merrier.” Looking back at that day, I found it comforting to know that most goddesses – and some tiger lilies – have a really great sense of humor.