Actualizing truth

So I’ve been working on refining the “motto” of sorts I wrote about last week: “Create what you would like to see in the world, and then make it public.”

I’ve now whittled it down to:

“Actualize the truth you want to see in the world.”

The making it public part should go without saying.

I’m been thinking a lot about truth, with either a big or little “T”, and what the artist has to do with it.  I could have stated “Create the truth you want to see in the world,” but maybe this too strongly implies that anyone can create their own truth. Not so.  Truth is a funny thing.

In a recent Facebook discussion, I wrote:

My take on it is, in brief, as follows: Knowledge (and truth) is a social construction — and socially constructed not only within human society but also between human societies and the wider environment. Our technologies are isolating and separating us from each other and from the natural environment. Therefore knowledge and truth are fracturing, with different groups and even different individuals seeing reality in radically different ways, and without any kind of grounding feedback from nature. The remedy? Art certainly, but exactly how, I’m not sure — but it has do with communication and real sharing, and lately I’ve been thinking it has to do with creating, visualizing the positive I want to see in the world and sharing that vision with others.

In short, individuals don’t create truth, communities or societies create truth. This is conventional truth, but truth nonetheless.  And it comes about through communication, through dialog.

So yes, creation is involved in truth, but “actualize” seems such a richer word.

By actualize I mean make actual, make real in the here and now, something that wouldn’t be without [human] action.

What about absolute truth (Truth with a big T)? Well, even more, the artist actualizes it, rather than creating it. But perhaps it’s the case, as at least one ancient philosopher suggested: The absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth.

As an artist, I could very well have written “Actualize beauty.” But while there is always something “true” about beauty, the truth is not always [conventionally] beautiful, or pleasing: there are inconvenient truths, unpleasant truths, there is truth speaking to power, and speaking against the possibly baseless truths held dear by other communities or individuals (I mean truths constructed without communication and dialog with one’s selves, one’s neighbors, one’s environment).  The truth is: there is injustice in the world, the truth is: we fall well short of our ideals.  These truths also the artist must actualize.  It’s not all beauty and light, as I might have implied in my Facebook post.

So there you have it. Actualize the truth you want to see in the world.

And do that by seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling life — and speaking. Singing, even.

“December Rose,” digital photograph, 2016

Featured painting of the week

This week’s featured painting is “Reach” — a triptych I created in 2012.  This painting and some other square format paintings I created then were precursors to my Lifeworld series, and should almost be considered honorary members of the series.

“Reach” (triptych), oil on canvas, 20″ x approx 60″. 2012
“Reach” detail, 2012.
“Reach” detail, 2012.
“Reach” detail, 2012.

For the time-being …

Because you think your time or your being is not truth, you believe that the sixteen-foot golden body is not you. However, your attempts to escape from being the sixteen-foot golden body are nothing but bits and pieces of the time-being.

— “Uji,” Eihei Dōgen (1200-1253)

Digital pinhole photograph, 2011

How to start?

Starting is always the hardest part.

A good place to start is by decluttering, cleaning up my workspace.  Nothing stops the creative process more for me than clutter.  That could be physical clutter or mental clutter. The two seem closely related.  Also why not freshen up the blog format! Nice, fresh template!

Then, what to do? I was impressed by a piece of advice I read online today while at the office, found while looking for information on the book The Miracle Morning.

I can’t remember where exactly I found this:

“Create what you would like to see in the world, and then make it public.”

The author was mainly thinking about how to make money, but I was intrigued about it in a different way.  What would I like to see in the world, and how could I, as an artist, create that, or at least contribute to it?  Certainly not another gadget, app or infernal machine to distract and mislead people.  Instead, peace, love and understanding come to mind.

So I think my contribution for today will be the Karaniya Metta Sutta, words attributed to the Buddha.  This is what I hope for the world:

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

“One Bright Pearl” watercolor on paper, 2008.

Featured painting of the week: The House is Burning

This week’s featured work is a painting — actually a diptych (two paintings that form one work) titled “The House is Burning.”

"The House is Burning", mixed media on canvas, 30"x44", 2012.
“The House is Burning”, mixed media on canvas, 30″x44″, 2012.

The provocative title should make one think immediately of global warming – climate change.  That’s certainly appropriate, but there’s even more to the story.  Now seems like a good time feature this painting, since it appears that the house is not going to stop burning anytime soon.

So– The direct inspiration for this title is the famous “Parable of the Burning House” that appears in the Lotus Sutra — one of the most important religious texts of Mahayana Buddhism.  Here is an excerpt (lightly abridged) from the parable (Burton Watson translation):

“Suppose that in a certain town in a certain country there was a very rich man. He was far along in years and his wealth was beyond measure. He had many fields, houses and menservants. His own house was big and rambling, but it had only one gate.  A great many people … lived in the house.  The halls and rooms were old and decaying, the walls crumbling, the pillars rotten at their base, and the beams and rafters crooked and aslant.

“At that time a fire suddenly broke out on all sides, spreading through the rooms of the house. The sons of the rich man, ten, twenty, perhaps thirty, were inside the house. When the rich man saw the huge flames leaping up on every side, he was greatly alarmed and fearful and thought to himself, I can escape to safety through the flaming gate, but my sons are inside the burning house enjoying themselves and playing games, unaware, unknowing, without alarm or fear. The fire is closing in on them, suffering and pain threaten them, yet their minds have no sense of loathing or peril and they do not think of trying to escape!

“This rich man thought to himself, I have strength in my body and arms. I can wrap them in a robe or place them on a bench and carry them out of the house. And then again he thought, This house has only one gate, and moreover it is narrow and small. My sons are very young, they have no understanding, and they love their games, being so engrossed in them that they are likely to be burned in the fire. I must explain to them why I am fearful and alarmed. The house is already in flames and I must get them out quickly and not let them be burned up in the fire!

“Having thought in this way, he followed his plan and called to all his sons, saying, ‘You must come out at once!’ But though the father was moved by pity and gave good words of instruction, the sons were absorbed in their games and unwilling to heed him. They had no alarm, no fright, and in the end no mind to leave the house. Moreover they did not understand what the fire was, what the house was, what danger was. They merely raced about this way and that in play and looked at their father without heeding him.

“At that time the rich man had this thought: The house is already in flames from this huge fire. If I and my sons do not get out at once, we are certain to be burned. I must now invent some expedient means that will make it possible for the children to escape harm. …

I’ll stop there and not get into how the father managed to get his children out of the house. The parable is a powerful one. To me, it aptly describes the present human condition.

Yes, indeed, the house is burning. Will we notice? Will we get out?

October Art News: Gowanus Swim goes Natural/Unnatural

October is here and there’s a lot of art going on!

I hope everyone knows about my art at the Ploughman in Park Slope; if you haven’t had a chance to visit, my paintings (including Lifeworld 12 pictured below) will be on display through October 28.  The Ploughman is located at 438 Seventh Avenue, between 14th and 15th Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn.

"Lifeworld 12" mixed media on canvas, 20x20", 2013.
“Lifeworld 12″ mixed media on canvas, 20×20”, 2013.

Meanwhile back on the canal …

Gowanus Swim Society has both an exhibition of member art and an open party coming up during the weekend of Gowanus Open StudiosSaturday/Sunday, October 15-16.

First, the party: Once again this year, Gowanus Swim is hosting the official Gowanus Open Studios Saturday night after-party at Halyards Bar (406 3rd Ave at 6th Street, Brooklyn)! The party features an exhibition of video art curated by Joonyun Hwang and Keun Young Park of Brooklyn Art Cluster/Square Dot Plus Studios.

Natural/Unnatural happens Saturday, October 15!
Natural/Unnatural happens Saturday, October 15!

We’ll also have live music by the bands The Vajra Temple, Hair Club and June Submarine.

The videos will be screened during the day (1-6) with the party getting underway at 6pm.  The entire event is free and open to the public, with drink specials all night!  Join us!

Then, the exhibit: throughout the weekend of Gowanus Open Studios, see my work along with other members of Gowanus Swim Society at Square Dot Plus Studio (at Spaceworks Gowanus) 540 President Street, BB, Brooklyn (between 3rd and 4th Avenues). The show will be on exhibit both Saturday and Sunday, October 15 and 16, from noon to 6pm each day.

I hope to see you during Gowanus Open Studios!

 

See my work during Art Slope!

I’m pleased to announce that my work is appearing at The Ploughman in Park Slope, Brooklyn as a part of Art Slope, a week-long arts festival in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  The Ploughman offers Artisanal Cheese / Charcuterie / Craft Beer and Beer on Tap.  It’s located at 438 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, between 14th and 15th Streets.

Featured at The Ploughman are four paintings from my Lifeworld series.  The paintings will be on display through October 28th.

Clockwise from upper left: Lifeworld 12, Lifeworld 27, Lifeworld 10 and Lifeworld 29.
Clockwise from upper left: Lifeworld 12, Lifeworld 27, Lifeworld 10 and Lifeworld 29.

Art Slope started September 17 and runs through September 25.  Read more about the event here.

In other news:

Are you a video or performance artist? Do you know someone who is?  Gowanus Swim Society has an open call for video and performance art.  The work will be displayed during this year’s Gowanus Open Studios (October 14-16).  But hurry! The deadline for submissions is this Thursday, September 22! Click here for the open call.

Photos from France, May 2016 — first batch

At the end of this past May (2016), I was in France, visiting Lyon and Franche-Comté, in the south and east of the country.  It was an incredibly interesting and fruitful journey, culturally and artistically.  It’s taken me quite a bit of time to go through photographs, and I’m not done yet!  So, instead of waiting until I’ve finished with all of the photos, I’ve decided to put them out in batches.

The city of Lyon as seen from the Fourvière hill.
The city of Lyon as seen from the Fourvière hill.

So the first batch is now online!  These photos give highlights of the early days of my trip — focusing on the city of Lyon.  Lyon is a fantastic big city that is at the same quite livable and comfortable.  And there is quite a lot to see there!  I’ll go into a narrative about some of the artistic and architectural attractions in a future post.  Here are some highlights.

The Cathedral of Lyon dedicated to Saints Jean-Baptiste and Étienne. 12th-15th centuries.
The Cathedral of Lyon is dedicated to Saints Jean-Baptiste and Étienne. 12th-15th centuries.

Lyon is the ancient capital of Roman Gaul and the seat of the archbishop of Lyon, who also has the title of “Primate of the Gauls.”  There are roman ruins as well.

Roman sarcophagus, in the Gallo-Roman museum in Lyon.
Roman sarcophagus, in the Gallo-Roman museum in Lyon.
Roman sculpture fragment in the Gallo-Roman museum, Lyon
Roman sculpture fragment in the Gallo-Roman museum, Lyon

You can see all of the photos I’ve uploaded in this flickr album.

More photos to come!