Tag Archives: religion

Nirvana

An instructor in college once told me that an artist should always have multiple pieces in progress so when you get frustrated with one, you can work on something else. I tend to have multiple pieces in progress because I get ideas like a tree in a field gets struck by lightning and when the inspiration strikes, I HAVE to get it out! 

This piece is another one of my rotational works in progress. I started it a while ago but haven’t really gotten it to a point where I’m ready to share it, until now. I really needed a break from “Morphine”, the fan was starting to drive me crazy, so I turned my attention to the post- Apocalyptic.

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“Nirvana”, 20 x 30, ink on illustration board, 2013

I’m calling this piece “Nirvana”. Not like the band. Nirvana like the Buddhist idea of transcendence. With this piece, juxtaposition (such a great word and even better magazine), played a huge part. 

In Buddhism, Nirvana is a state of higher being, that can be obtained through devotion in life or after death, in which the body is freed from earthly suffering and human impulses, it more or less means to “just be”.

The lotus is a symbol of enlightenment, the flower grows out of the mud, figuratively where the soul is mired in human sin, emerging from the water- life lessons learned, mistakes made, to blossom- achieving enlightenment, understanding, and tolerance. . .

Throw into this mix the post-apocalyptic biomechanical/cyborg female. . . not quite human but still existing, albeit in a world that has apparently been poisoned (the gas mask), yet she sits in quiet repose. . . Is she oblivious? Accepting? Resigned to this destroyed world?

The skull in her lap is a testament to humans as they once existed. . . do they still exist? Was she responsible for their destruction? Is she seeking atonement for her sins? We can’t see her face behind the gas mask so this provokes the thought, between the gas mask and the mechanical parts, was she once the human whose head now rests in her lap?

The juxtaposition also poses the question and provokes the thought. . . is such imagery blasphemy? Does it mock the Buddha, in whose meditative position she resides? Has she found solace in some ancient, long forgotten teaching?

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Ganesh sitting on a lotus

The gas mask itself is reminiscent of the Hindu god, Ganesh. Does she mock him? Or does she revere him? Ganesh is regarded as the Lord of Obstacles, as well as Beginnings, she has obviously seen hard times, maybe some epic post-apocalyptic battle, maybe abuse at the hands of human survivors who see her as a Frankenstein monster, but she has apparently found peace/solace of some kind so she’s obviously had something to overcome, maybe her repose is her new beginning. Ganesh also resides over intellect and wisdom, again going back to the lotus and that state of higher being/ self awareness.

My work tends to be heavily symbolic, sometimes the symbolism is obscure and “alternative” in origin (I’m fascinated with the “Gnostic Bible”, for example), often times I pull different symbolism from different cultures and combine them into a strange amalgamations (Greek and Egyptian are some of my favorite to pull from). 

I am fascinated with religion, although before this piece, I had never actually explored Buddhist symbolism. 

Nirvana came about after a *very* long dry spell and it’s like nothing I’ve ever taken on before but then again, while I tend to maintain varying rotating works in progress (I currently have 5 different paintings sitting on my desk), they don’t really fit together as a “body of work”, per se but each and every one holds a very special place in my heart.

Each idea is like my baby, carefully nursed and nurtured into fruition, each line has an intent, a purpose, each mark, each colour applied to canvas, nothing is done without a purpose or a reason behind it. 

I was once told by another instructor in college that the best and worst part of my art is my desire to educate, to question and confront. She said that talking to me, it was fascinating to learn something new, but my work was horribly confusing if you didn’t know what to look for or didn’t have the opportunity to discuss it with me.

I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. I like conversing, discussing my work with other people but I also don’t particularly like to hand you an interpretation on a silver platter. It’s highly unusual that I went into such detail explaining my Nirvana piece but so much thought went into it! There was so much research and notes, sketches, reference photos. Even though I have gone into great depth to explain it, I hope, and I’m sure, that someone will look at it and will see an entirely different meaning and interpretation to it and I welcome your interpretation with open arms. 

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Bob’s Burgers: But Is It Art?

Alright, let me just start off by saying, I don’t watch that much TV but I happened to be channel surfing and came across an episode of “Bob’s Burgers”. The episode was titled “Art Crawl”. Okay, you’ve got my attention. I bit the bullet and watched the episode in it’s entirety and it got me thinking about the age-old question of “but is it art?”

In the episode, the city where the show is set is gearing up for the annual art crawl. Most cities host something like this, I’ve actually been to quite a few. The whole premise of the show is a disagreement between Bob and the chairlady for the art crawl, Edith. Image

Bob can’t believe people are willing to pay $200 for what he sees as “amateur crap” (ie still lifes, landscapes, etc.) but when his wife’s sister, Gayle, hangs her artistic interpretations of animal anuses in his restaurant, he unwittingly causes a feud: Image

I found this episode amusing for a number of reasons, but mostly because, as an artist, I’ve been trying to define “art” for as long as I’ve been painting.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, art is the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objectsThis is one of six definitions in their dictionary but it’s the one I found most applicable to define what I do. 

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“Mona Lisa”, Leonardo da Vinci, 1506

While most people will mostly concur that well known paintings like the Mona Lisa (Leonardo da Vinci) (pictured at right) and Starry Night (Vincent van Gogh) are art, where do we draw the line? I wouldn’t necessarily consider paintings of animal anuses “art” but I would value them for starting a conversation, and isn’t that really what art is? A conversation? 

Why is da Vinci considered one of, if not the foremost master of fine art but artists such as Andres Serrano (Piss Christ) (pictured below) and Robert Mapplethorpe (Man in a Polyester Suit), are considered by the mainstream community to be, among other things, “perverse”, “blasphemous”, and “pornographic”?

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“Piss Christ”, Andres Serrano, 1987

 Now, don’t get me wrong, Mapplethorpe is DEFINITELY an acquired taste. I don’t necessarily value him as an artist, but he made me think, he made me question what for me, is art and where does the line between “artistic nude” blur into “pornography”. Personally, I find him pretty 50-50 on the art/pornography debate but I also don’t think nudity and sexuality is something we should be ashamed of. 

As for Serrano, I’ve always found something beautiful and strangely ethereal about “Piss Christ”. The artist himself has said that his photograph, of a small crucifix suspended in a jar of his own bodily fluids to be an a symbol of religious ambiguity and commercialization of religious iconography in the current century.

As someone who was born and raised Catholic, albeit non-practicing, it speaks to me on a deeply personal level, one trying to not only identify, but reconcile my faith with my art, as well as my life. I respect it for making me think, and making me question, but I’m also kinda grossed out by the thought of using bodily fluids in one’s work. It’s not something I would ever do, but I think it takes a certain amount of courage to not only do so, but to put it out there and stand by it as art! 

I think that’s the most important thing in determining whether something is art or not- CONVICTION! If you cannot stand by your own work and defend it, how do you expect others to understand, accept, and tout it thusly? 

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“The Fountain”, Marcel Duchamp, 1917

When I started in a formal art program (2006), I didn’t know any artists other than the “masters”- da Vinci, Michelangelo, Monet, Picasso, van Gogh, etc. I thought that contemporary art, modern art, etc. was stupid and pointless. How could I consider Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” art? It was a urinal he autographed! 

I had to keep an open mind, I had to question, I had to push the boundaries of what my conservative upbringing considered “acceptable”. 

— I may not know art but I know what I like. —

I see art as a historical thing, I see it as a scientific thing. There’s as much method as there is madness. It’s as much a tool as it is an end. It’s symbolic. It’s cathartic. It’s religious. It’s blasphemous. It’s documented revolutions and caused them. It’s been banned, it’s been burned, it’s been hidden and censored. 

Art is there to challenge us. 

We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.  — Pablo Picasso 


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