ReflectionsArt Exhibit and Performance by Joe Culley
-Paintings, Film, and Tabla Drum Performance

Saturday, August 2, 8pm. Opening Reception, Films, and Music
-Exhibit runs through August 30.

Images from the Opening

About the Artist

“Reflections” Exhibition by Joe Culley.

This art exhibit features a series of paintings by Kent, Ohio artist Joe
Culley devoted to perception, projection and the mystery of
transcendence. These paintings are an outward manifestation inspired by
Culley’s experiences with India’s classical music. When he heard sitar
legend Ravi Shankar and his tabla (drum) maestro Ustad Allah Rahka, an
inner question was awakened which began a journey of following his
bliss. During the show opening a film and live musical performance by
the artist will be presented.

My intention in my work is to get high without drugs and to key into our
inate powers of perception, without altering our minds with chemical

In this installation, “Reflections” I prefer to have my movie screened
indoors to help facilitate the viewer's perception to focus upon the
movie and sound. A very clean floor, so people can sit Indian style in
meditation. during the show. I've got some long benches for people to
sit upon and meditate upon the paintings.


This show is a celebration of the mysterious, miraculous, and
intellectual aspects of human consciousness. Consciousness allows us to
be who we are and to create and experience incredible things. When
consciousness expands from a microcosmic to a macrocosmic view of the
world I call this transcendence. I also define transcendence as a
heightened state of awareness in which a blissful feeling of infinite
interconnectedness is experienced.

Many artists throughout history have painted their personal
interpretations of the transcendental experience. My intention of this
exhibit is to link sight and sound within the context of meditation to
place the viewer/listener in a state of transcendence.
The following is a brief chronology to illustrate how my life
experiences have unfolded in the culmination of this show.

My Dad is an artist and my Mom was, both being master artists. My Dad’s
art is abstract, Zen and mysterious. My Mother’s work is emotional,
realistic and allegorical. I struggled for many years with how and why I
should approach my art. At the time, I saw art as two opposing styles
with little to no connection. Hearing an observing my parent’s dialogue
and arguments concerning their art created much excitement and confusion
in the way art needed to be defined for myself. Thus began my journey in
many futile attempts in merging these seemingly opposite approaches.
This problem created a deep sense of comparing and contrasting my view
of the world, as well as searching for one commonality among everything.

Then I had an experience that shook my conceptions of artistic mastery
in the medium of sound. It was 1972 and I was nine years old when my Dad
took me to a concert at Kent State University. The concert featured
India’s classical master musicians Ravi Shankar and his tabla virtuoso
Ustad Alla Rakha. During the concert my heart was somehow opened to a
place that I didn’t know could be touched by music. The experience asked
of me a very profound direction to explore, in that if I could
understand a tenth of what these Indian musicians were doing, I would be
able to open some of the doors to the mystery of the universe for myself
and possibly find that one commonality or theory of everything for
myself. The components of this question I now realize embody an
intellectual, aesthetic and spiritual quest in which I still don’t fully

When I attended Kent State University for my undergraduate degree in
1982, I focused most of my studies in visual art, philosophy, education
and music. I played in many bands ranging from hard core punk rock to
Latin jazz fusion and made a lot of art in a variety of mediums. During
a printmaking class I became fascinated in merging my visual and musical
aesthetics together. Since then I’ve been intentionally and
unintentionally attempting to make a bridge, between the two, but the
bridge’s structure was never fully clear in which I could answer the
problem satisfactorily.

I graduated with an art education degree and was hired in 1990 at an
elementary school in Sagamore Hills, Ohio. I’ve been teaching there ever
since. During these so very quick 20 years, I managed to keep making my
visual art as well as my music.

When I made visual art I gravitated toward experiences in nature that
embodied a sense of mystery. I became consumed with the sky and its
infinite array of variations throughout the seasons. During times out in
the middle of a corn field on hot summer twilight or in the woods taking
photos of tangled thorns I had this feeling of awe, insignificance and
deep serenity. Within this deep calm I was fascinated and curious by my
ability as a human to witness the splendor and realize it. I made
hundreds of chalk pastel landscape paintings trying to realistically
capture the view as well as the emotional feelings I had.

As for my musical endeavors during this time I was performing in an all
original jazz fusion group called Osmosis. We experimented combining a
variety of musical styles and cultural influences into the tunes we
wrote. I was continually on the look out for new rhythms and unique
percussion instruments to infuse into the material

About ten years ago a new music teacher Nancy Lineburgh was hired at my
school. I would wander into her room during breaks from teaching to play
her percussion instruments, talk about educational philosophy and world
affairs. One day I told her about the Ravi Shankar concert I saw when I
was 9. I related to her how incredibly awakened I was by the tabla
drummer Alla Rakha and that I even did a little research about how they
were played, but became quickly intimidated by the complexity of
technique and musical notation. She told me she had taken a tabla
drumming class when she was in college with a man by the name of Greg
Booth. With my urging she brought in her tabla drums to school and began
to show me a few of the strokes, which I couldn’t do at all. Here I was
a seasoned drummer of 20 years and I couldn’t make a recognizable sound
on these two little drums. Thus, began my obsession trying to learn this
incredible instrument and giggling some of the knobs to the doors of the

A year or two after that encounter my first daughter Maya was born. Then
my Mom died from a heart attack which somehow caused a fire in my
childhood home that practically destroyed everything. Blessedly at the
time I was meditating on a daily basis. Out of this birth and death
experience I began merging my meditation with my tabla drumming practice
thus turning my tabla drumming into a prayer.

Nancy Lineburgh was incredibly patient in lending her tabla to me. One
day she asked for me to return them since she was teaching a lesson on
Indian classical music. When I returned them she asked me to play. She
was stunned by how much I learned from a book.

Several months later a catalog from Omega Institute was given to me by a
friend. Omega Institute is a holistic studies retreat Mecca in Rhinebeck
New York. In the catalog a week long course was being offered by the
tabla master Ustad Zakir Hussain. Zakir by the way is Alla Rakha’s son!
With the urging of my wife Michelle and Nancy I took the class, I should
say that the class took me. During that incredible week I had a very
powerful transcending experience. Tabla manifested itself in everything
from the timbre of voices to the cadence of dropping rain water upon the

My wife and I had two more children Aliyah and Liam so my life became
very full and extremely busy. I wasn’t about to let go of my tabla
practice. The only times I could fully concentrate was late at night and
early in the morning. After several years of practicing and traveling as
far as Costa Rica to study with one of Zakir’s students Ty Burhoe, I had
the desire to go back to the problem of merging my visual artistic side
with the deep transcending experiences I had been having playing tabla.
I felt that a solid bridge could be created in which I would be finally
satisfied in answering my artistic problem.

I began researching artists who I felt pointed me toward a solution.
Classic Landscape artists Frederick Church, Joseph Mallord William
Turner, Casper David Friedrich, Albert Bierstadt, Minimalist painters Ad
Rhienhardt, Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin and Matter painter Antoni Tapies.
They all utilized the artistic and spiritual elements I desired to use.

My paintings in this show merge the three elements of the aesthetic,
intellectual and spiritual. I have synthesized the elements of landscape
in the horizontal, abstract in the minimal, realistic and allegorical
within the surface and titles, and spiritual in the perceptual
experience within a meditative frame of mind.
I chose the square and the window motif intentionally, because the
mechanics of playing tabla and the musical structure of Indian Classical
music require very stringent boundaries. These boundaries provide
liberation through variation. Zakir described this as a home foundation
for him to fly in all directions of exploration, but grounding who he
is. This was the bridge I was looking for.

The effect of this show is transcendence, by heightening the viewer’s
perception of nothing and to feel the bliss within this nothing. If I
pulled off my intention for you, the paintings will disappear and the
sounds and rhythms of the tabla with take you into silence.
I gratefully thank my guru’s Bob, Betty, Michelle, and Sage Culley, My
Kids, Nancy Lineburgh, every musician I’ve played with, Zakir Hussain,
Ty Burhoe, Steve Bross, Ken Gessford, and all of my students.

Artist’s Bio
Joe Culley grew up in an artist’s home, being that both his parents Bob
and Betty Culley were professional artists and educators of art. His
artistic interests not only include visual art, but filmmaking, poetry
and drumming. He is very interested in merging his intellectual
spiritual, musical and visual aesthetics into various art forms. For the
past eight years Joe has been focusing his musical intent upon the tabla
(drums) of India.
He currently performs with The Awakening Project, Breathing Room, master
kirtan vocalist Madhu Mathur Anand, sitarist Eric Murray,
multi-instrumentalist Mike Hovanscek, Double Bass master Bryan Thomas,
guitarist Michael Curtis, multi-ethnic dancer Melissa Lopez and Anand
Nada "The Bliss of Sound". He's a certified/licensed art educator and
currently is teaching tabla a India Sunday School in Akron, Ohio.
He plays a pair of drums from India called tabla. His tabla drumming
gurus are international tabla genius, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Krishna Das's
tabla maestro, Ty Burhoe and the international acclaimed tabla master,
Arup Chattopadhyay.
Joe started playing drum set 30 years ago and has played it in a wide
variety of musical contexts ranging from hardcore punk, classic rock,
Latin, jazz, etc. He has toured with blues legend Robert Jr. Lockwood
and Wallace Coleman. Joe's jazz fusion group Osmosis has played many
concerts and festivals over its 8 year span opening for some of the jazz
His art guru’s are his parent’s Bob and Betty Culley. Ken Gessford, Dan
Rohn, Noel Riefel, Tom Lehnert, Craig Lucas, Ira Matteson, Brinsely
Tyrell, Janice Lessman Moss, Bill Quinn, and many more.
He’s married to an incredible woman who dare’s to follow her bliss. They
both have three creative children who love to paint, draw and play with
each other.

Joe has shown his art work in the following North East Ohio Galleries:
Harris Stanton Gallery; North Water Street Gallery and Kent State, and
the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent.