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In the coming weeks, Carla founder and editor-in-chief Lindsay Preston Zappas will be hosting chats with members of the L.A. art community via Instagram live on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
The following was edited for web from an Instagram Live conversation on March 31, 2020 at 5:30 PST.
Lindsay Preston Zappas: Cheers! So tell me how you’ve been, and how has your routine shifted over the last week or two of this quarantine time?
Emma Gray: Drastic. First of all, I want to thank you because I’m wearing actual clothes! [Laughs]
LPZ: Me too! These help me, you know, take a shower, brush my hair… !
EG: I’m out of the pajamas sweat-look, which I had resistance to because it’s so comfortable. Yeah, everything’s changed. In some ways, for me a lot of things haven’t changed, because I spend so much time on my own in my own space, you know? I have the gallery underneath—which, sadly, we installed just days before everything kind of shut down and we couldn’t do the opening. I also got a little bit sick. I didn’t know what it was necessarily because I couldn’t get tested, but it was just absolutely clear that there was no way we’d show anybody anything.
It’s such a beautiful show for spring, it’s by Anabel Juarez. It’s so lovely for right now—it’s just so inspiring and joyful, and I’m sad that people can’t see it in person. Maybe we’ll extend the show; we’ll see what’s happening. And then I have this space up here, which is a meditation studio I built in 2016. I’ve been doing energy work and healing work and meditation for a long time—really since I was 21. I kind of kept it all on the down low and quiet and then when I built the studio I started doing groups and I started getting much more deeply into it and accepting that this is really a part of who I am. It’s in tandem with the gallery.
I’ve been leading breathwork groups, and meditations, and artists who work with energy. I’m a Reiki master, which I love to do. For the community, I’m doing three free Reiki sessions a week to somebody who is in need: that means that they’re physically suffering and they’re in financial dire straits. I’ve already done five or six people who have the virus. Listen, it’s not like I’m necessarily healing them, I’m not going to say that, but sending energy and being with someone is very, very calming, and Reiki is extraordinarily powerful. I think it takes a couple of sessions to really move things, but anyway, that’s been really amazing.
LPZ: So for people that haven’t done Reiki before, how does that work over the computer, because you’re doing these digitally?
EG: I get a photograph of the person, and then I get their name and date of birth. In the process of meditation, one of the things that happens is you really kind of tune into yourself, and it’s almost like I tune into someone’s energy, like it’s a radio. Like a kind of dial, a frequency. I use their photograph, the connection I have with them, and their name and date of birth, and it’s amazing.
I was recently working with somebody in a hospital—this was about three or four months ago. We had never met before, and even what I was sending was picked up by the client’s relative, who was sitting with my client. I don’t know how it works, it’s kind of magic! It’s universal energy—and it just does work, is all I know.
And Reiki, the Japanese they call blocked energy “byosen,” which is just blocked energy in the body. The Reiki energy that you send is hopefully unblocking the energy so that the person can heal themselves—unblocking your own system so that you can heal yourself.
LPZ: I love that.
EG: Yes, so I’ve been offering that and some meditation, some free and some by donation.
LPZ: How do people tune into that if they want to get involved in your meditations or some of the different kinds of Zoom meetings that you’re offering?
EG: This space on Instagram is called The Energetic Residency. I have a whole separate website called Emma Gray Healing, which details everything that I do and have done and all the people I’ve trained with.
There’s a concentration practice on Wednesday morning, which is live. It’s just basic mindful breathing. Then every Sunday, I’m a meta or love and kindness practice. This weekend, we just did forgiveness practice, and the other Sunday we did love and kindness. The heart practices are about building the muscle of compassion and empathy. The concentration practice is really just deep concentration meditation. They’re the two pillars of a Buddhist practice, and you can use those everyday. So those are nice to drop into.
LPZ: I want to go back to something you were saying about how you used to keep your energy practice and your work in the gallery really separate. I’m curious because I’ve battled those kinds of things myself, as someone that’s an artist and also publishes a magazine—just the idea that in the art world sometimes we feel like we have to be one thing in order to be taken seriously as someone who’s producing things for the art world. I wonder if you could just speak on that a little bit; if those were kind of some of the thoughts you were having; that decision to build a studio above your gallery, now they really are ameshed in the same space.
EG: [Building the studio] made a lot of sense for different reasons. Potentially, I could rent it out if I needed the income, but I primarily built it because I wanted to keep practicing and I knew that if I built a studio I’d have to do things. So it kind of forced me to keep going and build. I paint and I’m a mom, and I have the gallery, and the studio; I kept everything separate because there were stories in my head that it was I was being “too much.” I think a lot of women maybe can relate to that—maybe just a lot of human beings—like, “oh, it’s too much. I can’t be doing all of those things.” And I realized that this is just who I am. My stepmother was a healer; I’ve been doing it since I was 21. This is who I am and this is what I’m going to do.
Then, a lot of artists started coming to my breathwork groups and things and so many synchronicities happened.
LPZ: Do you feel like [opening the meditation studio] shifted the type of art that you’re showing? Are you more interested in that type of artist, or no?
EG: I mean, perhaps. I feel like the quality of the work—some of these artists are brilliant artists. They happen to do this as well. I would say there hasn’t been a lapse in quality, just maybe as I focused more on what I’m doing I’ve attracted that back.
LPZ: Right, right. And artists flock to galleries that show work that they align themselves with as well, so I’m sure it’s sort of influenced the type of people that come to the gallery and it kind of grows naturally that way.
EG: Exactly. And that’s why I called it The Energetic Residency: I believe in energy, and I think we’re all atoms and frequencies, and what we put out we get back, and so it’s kind of fun thinking of it like that.
[Emma leads a few minutes of breathwork. To learn more or drop in on a session with Emma, visit her on Instagram @theenergeticresidency.]
LPZ: I’ve meditated a little before, but especially in the last couple weeks I’ve been all in. I think a lot of people are looking for tools to kind of cope with anxiety. Tell us how the practices you do are so effective right now, why we need them right now.
EG: We’re sort of programmed, I think, unfortunately, to go to kind of chaos and anxiety. And when you can start seeing the kind of computer chip of your brain and how it’s like [digital computer noise], then you can do little practices to slow it down. You can see that your brain is kind of autonomous and just doing his own thing—you actually get power and control. It’s the one thing you can actually control: how you think.
You can actually guide your thoughts. They are not necessarily running you. And I think when you start doing practices with breath and mindfulness and counting, you get that power back. It calms down.
[When I was learning] every day I did a concentration practice and then on the second day I would do a heart practice, and those pretty much I still do now, one every other day. And [my teacher, George Haas said after six months, I want to talk to you about how much happiness you have. And it’s true: I had a lot more happiness because I just had more peace and calm, and I could recognize when my mind was going nuts.
EG: And pull it back.
LPZ: The thing I’ve learned from meditation is to have no judgement: our minds do that. Like you’re saying, it’s going to do that. But how do you kind of create that space?
EG: Just bear in mind that we all have so much resistance and the ego does not want to change. I had resistance to putting really nice clothes on today! [Laughs] Well, not really nice, but not sweatpants, you know. And a little bit of lipstick.
The resistance is the part of us that doesn’t want to change, but it’s also the part of us that stays small. And we want to try to expand—especially while we’re in this weird, confined moment. That’s why we did the forgiveness practice the other day. Forgiveness practice is for yourself. Okay, maybe other people have done you wrong, but it’s the fact that you’re holding onto a grudge that’s keeping you small and not expanded. And we want to expand, especially while we’re feeling contracted.
LPZ: That’s beautiful, Emma. I wanted to ask you briefly: with the gallery and the art world and some of the financial struggles we’re all experiencing— I know you did a fire sale for some of your artists last week—I wondered if you could speak to the challenges that we’re all in, and if you’ve been thinking about ideas of how we can all come together to support each other. Or, maybe even the kind of things that you feel like you’re struggling with the most during this time in terms of the gallery and supporting your artists.
EG: In a funny kind of way, I maybe saw the writing on the wall about a different source of income. Not that I necessarily think of this as another source of income, but it provides me with a little bit of emotional and financial security. I think it’s smart—some of the really big galleries have restaurants and things! I think it’s wise to think about other potential sources of income; I mean, sometimes the meditation studio pays for the gallery, and sometimes the gallery pays for the meditation studio.
LPZ: That’s so cool.
EG: And with Jesse Fleming, we taught meditation to UCLA students to help raise money for his video. So, I think being open to other sources of income is smart. And I am not worrying too much about it.
I’ve been in deep scarcity before, and once you get into that mode, shit just gets worse and worse. I also think: it’s the weirdest thing, the minute you start helping other people, money starts coming to you. It really is a magic thing. Help people; it expands you, it helps you, and good things come to you. My teachers taught me that and it’s true. I don’t know why it’s true, but it does work. I think if you add a bit of service into what you’re doing, it will help.
LPZ: That’s so beautiful.
EG: Financially as well; on all levels.
LPZ: With that idea of doing something generous for your community or for others, I’ve heard that those are the types of jobs that are most fulfilling for people: people working in service or doing things for others. It’s actually this human need, I think, that we all have, and it’s very difficult in our society, that’s—like you said, computer chip brain, one thing to the next— to prioritize that sometimes.
EG: Yeah. I think I do a lot of the meditation work out of a need to help heal myself as much as I do to help other people. So in a weird way, following selfish ideas that have service attached to them is really smart as well.