Art Texts

Art texts refer to essays on contemporary art and belles lettres. These essays will appear gradually over the coming months.

Art as Gift

In a downtown Vancouver bank, Tibetan monks create a sand mandala to relieve universal suffering and bring serenity. A Salish community on the West coast re-creates ceremonial robes and blankets as a step to reviving traditional dances and rituals and thereby bring them a sense of renewal. A California artist paints her struggle with fever and road to recovery. A Texas physician creates an installation piece which documents the suffering of  a.i.d.s. patients and serves as an emblem of … [Read more...]

Ariadne’s Realm

For those who know the Greek myth of the Minotaur, the usual heroes are Daedalus, the master artisan who creates the labyrinth imprisoning the Minotaur, and Theseus, the young Athenian prince who risks his life in entering the labyrinth and killing the Minotaur, the half-human beast. Ariadne, who possesses the magic ball of string that allows Theseus to enter the labyrinth safely, seems to have a secondary position in the story. Yet, she is a remarkable character. Daughter of King Minos, … [Read more...]

Persephone’s Smile

  The myth of Persephone suggests three stages in creativity that can deepen our art practice. Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, is renowned for her beauty. She loves to roam in the fields and everywhere nature celebrates her presence with a profusion of flowers. Hades falls in love with her, and after asking Zeus for her hand, abducts Persephone into his underworld kingdom. Demeter is overwhelmed with grief. She cannot find Persephone anywhere, and when she learns the truth, in … [Read more...]

When The Darkness Sings

There is a method in depth psychology called "gold in the shadow," which, if I understand it correctly, seeks to find value in what we often deem valueless: our ordinary suffering, our humiliations, our failures. In art practice, a parallel procedure is to maintain a lucid openness to the entire range of experience and to even the humblest configurations of light and matter, for anything can have interest in the appropriate context. Actually, the choices for both awareness and practice are … [Read more...]

Aphrodite’s Gaze

We are so used to looking at the world and laying claim to it that our ideas about experience are predictably narrow. Nothing seems unreasonable about the notion that we use our thinking and our senses as best as we can to understand the world and to navigate it. Yet by considering only this arrangement we may be limiting what is available to us. One of the assumptions in the development of any skill is that attention improves performance. The more we develop our attention, the more attention … [Read more...]

The Wounded Artist

  In Marrakesh, I once saw a dervish pass a long skewer through his cheek. He then stuck several needles into his palms. All the while, he wore a calm, if somewhat distracted expression on his face, as if his true interest were somewhere else and the impaling was a nuisance he had to get through. An assistant described the procedure in Arabic to those gathered, mostly Westerners, who like myself probably did not understand the explanation. A Moroccan I’d met earlier told me that there … [Read more...]

Riding The Dragon

  The line in painting is always first and last a mark on the canvas, but the ancestry of the calligraphic mark, revealed in the process of creation, includes a deep connection with the processes of Nature, divination, and cultures across the world. The awareness of this ancestry comes sometimes as an intuitive flash during the act of painting and sometimes as a recognition during research. Many painters, including Lin Shin-Chek and Jack Wise in Canada, and Morris Graves and Mark … [Read more...]

Between the Visible and the Invisible

In one of his letters, the great German poet Rilke writes, " we are the bees of the invisible. We frantically plunder the visible of its honey, to accommodate it in the great golden hive of the invisible."[1] The phrase, "bees of the invisible," describes one of the possibilities for the artist. The bee metaphor suggests tireless working for the good of the community, collecting pollen ("impressions") to be transformed into honey ("beauty," which is sweet to the taste, and food for everyone). … [Read more...]

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