Sunday, August 21, 2011

Zen Up Close and Personal

detail of handmade scrolls

Zen has one aim: to encourage us to take a longer and closer look at all that is around us in the hope that once we have developed a more intense insight we will grow to cherish and nurture this earth and all its inhabitants. Every day events take on new meaning.

water basin with koi near my real koi pond

When we practice Zen we embark on a journey of self discovery... a journey that leads to a deeper understanding not only of our minds but also of our concept of reality.

dry water basin with bamboo charcoal (for purity)

Zen and the empty mind: a mind that is awake but fixed nowhere... empty your thinking of the past and the future and be IN THE MOMENT.

Old Japanese books, the covers are worn and torn.

No matter what medium you choose -- photography, haiku, poetry, dance, music, painting, collage, assemblage, acting -- you will, by virtue of being in the moment, improve the quality of your art. You will be able to see more, to feel more, and to be more.

Container with sumi brushes and bamboo charcoal

Zen wants us to pay full attention to the smallest details in life-- to be mindful of everything we do. Zen is about enjoying the simple things.

Large flat round pottery with a LOT of small round beach rocks

With its strong belief in self expression, Zen is by its very nature a catalyst for creative thought. Its spiritual freedom allows us to discover our creative powers and hidden potential.

hand made scrolls, part of a larger assemblage

"I am part of the sun as my eye is part of me. That I am part of the earth my feet know perfectly, and my blood is part of the sea. There is not any part of me that is alone and absolute except my mind, and we shall find that the mind has no existence by itself, it is only the glitter of the sun on the surfaces of the water." --- D. H. Lawrence

Large round beach rocks in stone basin

Be alive,
be here--- and know
the beat of your heart.

small stone doll's head on rock

What really matters is that Zen deals with the present. It teaches us that life is too precious to waste. Zen is about the joy of living right now-- to live for each moment.

round hand carved stone

A Mind Poet
Stays in the house.
The house is empty
And it has no walls...

The poem
Is seen from all sides,
At once.
--Gary Snyder

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,
as if the axis
on which the earth revolves --
slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future.
Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.
--Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Art by Accident or by Design

Boro is a Japanese word meaning "tattered rags" - used to describe patched clothes and bedding.
Because the clothing has been patched over and over, they look like wearable quilts. For a long time they were an embarrassment, due to the extreme poverty of the country people who created them. Now they are considered National treasures.

The book BORO: Rags and Tatters from the Far North of Japan by Yukiko Koida and Kyoichi Tsuzuki is based on the tireless search by Chuzaburo Tanaka for these cultural folk craft. He trekked over mountains and seacoast for 40 years collecting these Boro pieces. You can find this book for a reasonable price at the Trocadero website here.

Without Tanaka's efforts we would never have known of the art and beauty of Boro. For the people who created them, each small scrap of cloth and thread was precious. You can find actual Boro items at Kimono Boy, srithreads, and Shibui Home.

Below is one of my paintings in which I used hand-painted rice papers as collage. My hope in creating these hand painted papers was to make them resemble pieces of fabric in the style of Boro. The title is Asian Quilt.

Between 1741 and 1760, more than 4000 babies were left at the Foundling Hospital in London, England. When these impoverished mothers left their babies, they also left a small token, which was usually a piece of fabric. The fabric was either provided by the mother or cut from the child's clothing by nurses.

This piece of fabric was attached to registration forms and bound up in ledgers, in order to 'identify' the baby and keep identifying records. The hope by both the mothers and the nurses was that they would be able to reclaim their baby when their lives improved.

These pieces of fabric represent the sad moments of parting. Below, the piece of fabric has been cut into the shape of a heart. These pieces of fabric also form the largest collection of every day textiles serving Britain from the 18th century. Earlier this year, the Foundling Museum in London showcased an exhibit called Threads of Feeling. You can find out more about this exhibit at the Foundling Museum website here.

Between his age of 80 to 95, for 15 years until his death, Kouzaki Hiromu spent his days creating small simple 'works of paper'. When asked, he would say that he was making envelopes. He cut up, folded and pasted pieces of found papers.

His granddaughter, Fujii Sakuko, put over 100 of these envelopes into a book simply titled

In his work, Hiromu created simple edge, line and surface texture.

Isn't it interesting how art imitates life, and life imitates art. Over time, these objects today take on qualities of collage, objects of history, and objects with life and soul.

Envelopes I found at a temple flea market in Kyoto in 2009.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Hiroshima Remembered

Beginnings: Small collage 8"x8"

Every year, on August 6th, tears fall at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima where the victims of the world's first atomic-bomb attack, unleashed upon the Japanese city during World War II, are remembered. The United States dropped the bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. An estimated 70,000 people died instantly. It is estimated that 140,000 died on that day and in the months that followed.

Shuudoushi monk at the Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto, Japan.

On each anniversary thousands of people, of dozens of nationalities, gather to remember the dead and pray for peace. Called the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony and held each August 6, choirs sing, bells toll and a minute of silence is observed at 8:15am, the time the bomb fell.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park Cenotaph stands across from the Atomic Bomb Dome. The epitath reads: Rest in Peace, for the error shall not be repeated.

Doves for Peace are released at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

"The light that is hard won offers the greatest illumination. A gift wrestled from bleakness will often confer a sense of sureness and grounding in the self, a strengthening proportionate to the travail of its birth." -- John O"Donohue, from Beauty: The Invisible Embrace "The Lost Voice"

Hiroshima Bomb Dome: This is one of the few buildings that remained standing after the atomic bombing. It stands as a tribute to the courage and resilience of the Japanese people.

Monks praying for peace.

Candles and paper lanterns float on the Motoyasu River in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome, in memory of the victims.

--- Now looking through the slanting light
of the early morning window
toward the mountain presence
of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
--- David Whyte