Making Art in a Woke World

We live in a world full of seeking. We also,  live in a world that rather be “woke” than actually awake. We judge, we shame, we basically don’t listen. And it is this hypocrisy that has me as an artist and spiritual being living with certain fears.

In my independent adult life I have always been an artist, but for longer than that I had been a seeker. Then I did the whole renunciation thing. I gave up everything I could, even my art. I ventured off and became a neo-western ascetic of sorts, and then realized I was an idiot. I realized I was not living authentically by following the lead and words of others. So I gave up on being a seeker because, well, there were rules and there was a lot of following to do. And since birth those were the two things I didn’t do.

I got to the point of self induced insanity in Thailand. This was terrifying as I thought I was really going to lose it, but somehow I just ended up opening up the portal in my being of the Bodhicitta and not going crazy. Then it escalated in Nepal. I was opening and activating all the chakras in my body and I got myself stuck in the third eye for days! There was throbbing and tingling sensation where the third eye is located.  The throbbing tingling sensation in between my eyes was the thing that changed my way of thinking. If becoming “enlightened” was this annoying I rather just not be enlightened and get back to enjoying life. I was sitting by the river smoking cigarettes outside the Ashram. I was in Lumbini, Nepal when I blissfully said, “fuck it”. The moment I said fuck it and let that whole poetic idea of going to the east and finding the meaning of life go, it began to happen. That is how I experienced some kind of enlightenment.

Unlike the whole “woke” culture likes to think enlightenment is not a superpower, its an understanding. Somehow being “woke” equates to being special; which then becomes a sense of spiritual superiority and entitlement. Oddly enough the first thing you see in the big picture of understanding is that we are all really not that special, but being not that special means that we are all capable, and furthermore we are all so not special that we are all Buddhas.

The moment of experiencing the opening of the Sahasrara is just a moment, but it is the kind of moment that one can never forget. In my moment of understanding, it was understood that I can be nothing more than myself. That I was already and always who I was meant to be. That making art isn’t just a selfish egotistical desire that my “white privileges” gave me. For me art making was the deepest form of meditation I could successfully perform. It was the thinking that achieving enlightenment through someone else's way and experience that took me away from my truth.  

Since that day of understanding, life has become a little more complicated. I had dropped out of  the western world for so long, that I had forgotten about Western culture and the even scarier western values. I did not understand that when I left a world were I was seen and heard I was going back to the world where I would have to face fear, rejection, and blindness. It was my karma to change that through living through the Dharma, and developing my practice of the Tantra.

I have struggled for well over a year now to communicate this story. This story is the inspiration and motivation behind the new piece I am working on “Hidden Prayers”. I know its unconventional to talk about a piece before it is finished, but I never really was the type of person to follow someone else's ideas of the rules. Or even my own when it comes down to making what I believe is fine art.

Art making has always brought my insecurities to the surface. I have always been able to work past the insecurity that art making causes as my education in art helps me reference the process I go through. For me art making is mediation, but I also recognize that I am not alone in this reality.

I am pretty daunted about telling my story, and about sharing my thoughts. That is the how this piece came to be. I was contemplating on how I could ever share my experience about the seeking of my own Buddhahood. The desire to tell this story and further explore and share ideas about enlightenment and meditation is my hidden prayer.  

The use of the Tibetan lettering and the Om Mani Padme Hum was used by choice. I had to use the most common mantra that more people than less would be able to grasp. This choice enhances my fear of sharing myself and art with the world. I fear that I can be viewed as  culturally appropriating the Tibetan people to monopolize on an art career in America. So the mantra being covered or “hidden” was the ideal choice to feel safe in sharing this very powerful feeling and experience. This fear of being seen and misunderstood is the dialogue that created this piece.

The whole piece is a mediation practice. Every layer is a full set of mantras that religious practitioners use. There are 108 hand painted Mantras that get painted over  with black paint after they are written. The piece builds itself up through what is hidden behind or underneath the surface.The goal is to saturate the piece with prayers that builds the texture as that is how I feel on the inside when engaging with the world.

This is my prayer to share my story of enlightenment, and I have had to craft its execution as fine art. I had to cultivate  the best way to present this to a general audience. I did not want to be aggressive, hard, or stiff in my approach. I am praying to be seen and heard but not to force it. That is why it has been painted on a soft and thick piece of fabric and is not stretched. The intention is that if I just keep praying hopefully those prayers will break through and once again I will feel seen and heard for the right reason and in the right way. The process is to keep doing this until my prayers can no longer be hidden.  

Once the prayers start to breaking through the surface the piece will then loosely be whitewashed. The idea expresses the tension behind sharing our most sincere intentions in this world and struggling to find a way to cover them up.

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