Prints and Paintings: Monks and the Blue Deer
This artwork reflects a transitional period when I was coming from having completed a full collection of drawings of people praying and meditating. The drawings, (previous to the work shown here), explored various belief systems including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Since I was primarily interested in Buddhism at this time, the work filtered toward that practice. I especially became interested in representing the day-to-day presence of Buddhist monks.
One interesting concept that I began to dwell on as I worked was a contrast between belief (in something) and non-belief (in anything) that tends to rise to the top when I consider Buddhist philosophy and psychology. Though the moth, (shown in several of the pieces), was appropriated from the work of another artist, Kiki Smith, and was initially used as an interesting design element/a focal point, its continued use accumulated special meaning as it came to represent my personal reflections on Buddhism. For me the moth, an insect that experiences chrysalis and then maintains a quiet and persistent presence, came to represent the ancestral line of Buddhism – the transition of the dharma from one monk to the next and a lineage that often reaches back to the actual Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, (Gautama Siddhartha). In general then, the moth has come to represent the persistent notion of belief in spiritual practice – in this case a belief in lineage and the transferring of information stemming back to the original patriarch.
The deer as an anthropomorphic figure and later as a fantastic symbol on its own, emerged in a similar way. Though not appropriated from any other artist, it came about as merely an interesting visual experiment and then it’s continued use took on certain meaning. The deer represents the head figure that possesses the “great teaching,” (the dharma), in this sense it is the head monk of the sangha. Also the deer as an aspect of nature stands for the natural reality of the earth that makes existence and contemplation of the spirit possible.