March 12, 2009

Art is something we do...

I was away at a conference for Soto Zen priests at Zenshuji in Los Angeles.  It was wonderful to arrive in a sunny and reasonably warm climate after the drippy past month in the Pacific Northwest.  California has its own magnificent, golden charm.  I rode on supershuttle to the hotel with a woman from Ohio who said she worked at the Rock and Roll Museum there, but she was headed downtown L.A. to the new Grammy Museum to see a friend.  Suddenly the world was round again in a completely different way from the usual doings of the tame atmosphere of Olympia, Washington.

It was after the conference that I went to see and spend time with Rebecca.  She was my very first student of Zen practice in Olympia, and now she lives in Santa Monica with her partner Lisa.  They are two of 35,000 gay/lesbian people who are legally married in California.  I'll talk about this another day.  Rebecca is a working artist/painter.  From the time she began meditating in Olympia, Rebecca sat every morning at 6:15  without fail.  From there each day, she went to her painting studio and threw herself completely into creative expression. 

On the plane, I had been reading ROBERT MOTHERWELL WITH PEN AND BRUSH by Mary Ann Caws.  In the book, Motherwell explains that painting is not something you hang on the wall, it is something you do.  It was the practice, the actual doing that excited Motherwell and it was this that gave him the steadiness to enter such a vast field of philosophical and creative understanding.  This reading whetted my appetite for the wonderful discussion on art and life that Rebecca and I engaged in as we walked the boardwalk in Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

We also went to the J.Paul Getty Museum, a wonder to behold.  The vast Pacific Ocean, blue, blue juxtaposed to the city of Los Angeles, white, grey and tan.  The recent rains made the foliage alive with green and the people were out in full to lap up the spring gardens.  The galleries were full, and almost, but not completely forgotten as we sat for a coffee on the patio overlooking the action.  I'm into photographing shadows as our portraiture.

The next day we went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, a huge place with an enormous collection of art.  Later we went back to Rebecca's studio and saw her current painting.  I played around with some sketching while Rebecca prepared for a job she had the following day.  Rebecca also stacked up books of the current artists she is studying and is influenced by and I spent some time reading these.  

I continued the Motherwell book on the return flight and came back to find an article about Ellen Dissanayake in "Columns" UW alumni magazine which can be found online.  Dissanayake is a brilliant thinker who writes on the origins of art and the impulse to create.  So, I took a nice art shower this past weekend and am invigorated to explore with ink and brush, and paper and pen.  For now, I'm just saying what we did, and in upcoming writings I'll try to say more about what was learned and how the conversation and reading roamed into meaningful landscapes.  So much to be done here in the next few days.  I can do no more than my best at touching all the bases.