The Artist’s Story

Prayer wheels artwork by Nagel-Gogolak.

I am a writer. My friend Nicole is an artist. She claims that she can’t write. I claim that I lack artistic ability. Although our creative mediums are different, we have a lot in common when it comes to pursuing our passions. Both Nicole’s art and my writing are shaped by our personal experiences, our self-identities, and the lenses through which we see the world. Like books, art tells stories. And these stories bring a piece of art to life.

lost and found in aspenThe cover of my novel, Lost and Found in Aspen, is an image of Nicole’s sought-after art, which she aptly named “Prayer Wheels,” made from slices of wood and painted with hot wax. Although the photograph of her wheels is pretty––it doesn’t do them justice. When you admire them hanging on a wall in person, you can feel their energy and the intuitive message each one conveys. Learning about the origin and inspiration behind Nicole’s work enables the viewer to have a better appreciation of the depth and power of her art.

This is Nicole’s story, in her words:

In 2011, I went on a soul-searching trek to the Himalayas where I became entranced by the meditative power of the art in Buddhist temples. The fusion of sacred meaning into visual imagery resonated deeply with me. I was particularly moved by the crowds of Tibetans in Kora, circumambulating the city and spinning prayer wheels while chanting the prayer “Om Mani Padme Hum.” Walking in unison with them, I felt the transformative power of this beautiful pilgrimage. The prayer wheels worn down from the touch of so many intentioned hands, the clicking sound they made as each passerby gently spun them to continue their unending spiral path, the smell of yak butter candles, and the beautiful rustling of colorful indigenous garments shuffling in pace, step after step––awoke my senses.

When I returned to the mountains of Colorado, I started making my “Prayer Wheels” series. I knew I wanted to find a way to capture this spiritual and synesthetic experience through a combination of sight, sound, touch, and smell into a visual image that also incorporated the natural beauty that I have always found so moving and inspirational. The circular wood grain of the log slices and finely etched lines fused with colored wax was the perfect representation of what I had felt on my travels through Nepal and Tibet. And the grain in the wood slice symbolized time, growth, and even struggle––which is pure and authentic.

Several years prior to this trip, a life-altering tragedy had shattered my heart and sent me on a frantic search for connection and deeper meaning in a world that felt empty and broken. Through my art, I began to heal and become whole again. Each wheel I created held a prayer, intention of hope, or a new beginning. It was a journey of putting my heart back together piece by piece. As I added color and ink to create the sublime surfaces, I was reminded of the present and divine moments in life. Just like the pilgrimage in Tibet, every prayer wheel I make holds its own unique intention: wish, prayer, or blessing to be bestowed upon by the viewer, and many pieces come together to form a whole. My work is satisfying and powerful because it merges my love of the outdoors by unifying an intricate collaboration between the artist and nature. When I am arranging all the individual slices across a wall, they become something much larger and lovelier than I had intended. That is where the visual magic happens, similar to a breathtaking moment one feels as they look up at the sun dancing through the leaves of the trees or the dazzling light skipping across a lake as the sun sets on the horizon in a warm summer glow. There is visual poetry that happens in these moments. It is this type of expression that I strive to recreate as I assemble numerous pieces of my work in various sizes across a wall.

For more information about Nicole and her artwork, check out her website:





About Lori Gurtman
Lori Gurtman is an author living in Aspen, Colorado.

Speak Your Mind