Enlightenment Series

The Enlightenment Series paintings combine transparent paint strands with pearlescent and iridescent paint strands to produce radiant paintings intended to facilitate enlightenment.  Some may say that the attainment of enlightenment is an insurmountable task, but I prefer to focus on the journey, resting in the certainty that the quest is a worthy one.  It is my hope that when a viewer stands before an Enlightenment Series painting, they feel as though they are standing at the threshold to a realm of infinite possibilities.   

Humanity hungers for spiritual nourishment.  Toxicity can be found everywhere we look.  The paintings of the Enlightenment Series are meant to be oases, harbors of refuge in an otherwise hostile world.  The Enlightenment Series paintings are meant to encourage meditation practice and exploration of higher levels of consciousness and existence, leading to a more harmonious and peaceful world.

If one must categorize, it would not be inaccurate to say that the paintings in the Enlightenment Series are “religious” in nature, but not in any sectarian sense.  They certainly explore “religious” subjects that humanity has grappled with throughout history but are meant to be free of any specific religious dogmatic or doctrinal affiliation.  The paintings of the Enlightenment series are meant to transcend religion and speak directly to the essence within each person that views the paintings. 

Satori

“Satori” means “instant enlightenment” or “revelation”. Completed in March of 2020, this painting is important to me. It is the first of what will be my “Enlightenment Series”. A  collection of monumentally sized paintings, as well as some very sparse paintings and some human-sized paintings that will facilitate personal reflection. Shambhala Buddhism resonates with me. I endeavor to meditate every day and be “present” as much as possible. When I work, I focus on my breath, this keeps me in tune with my being as I go through the motions making each strand of paint that will culminate in a finished painting. We must go through the labor process, the birth process. An idea does not come into this world readymade. The artist is the conduit through which thoughts/ideas become reality. Sweat is required.  

“Satori” began inauspiciously. I had a vision in my mind of how I wanted the painting to look, but I had no reference to help me. All I had was an idea of a multi-colored glow. I began with white iridescent paint strands, but that wasn’t right, it required layering. So, I started over. Long lengths of blue iridescent paint strands followed by shorter lengths of green iridescent paint strands; then even shorter lengths of yellow paint strands blending into a top layer of white iridescent paint strands. An ascension of consciousness. A Satori!  

Painting completed 3-5-2020 

Painting dimensions: H: 94″ X W: 14″

Meditation

Meditation is the second Freed painting of my Enlightenment Series.  The first was Satori completed in March 2020.  The Enlightenment Series will be a deeper examination of themes studied in my Clairvoyant Series of Freed paintings.  The Clairvoyant Series paintings examined supernatural capabilities.  The Enlightenment Series will examine the transcendental.  This series is very important to me because I am fascinated with what lies ahead for me after I die.  My perspective has changed and broadened over my lifetime.  In childhood I was indoctrinated with the Catholic concept of heaven but became disenchanted with that archaic view during my time in college.  After that I began to subscribe to a darker view that there is nothing after we die.  We just return to the dust.  That seemed to match my pessimistic attitude well.  More recently, as I have gotten older, I have noticed that I “know” less and less.  I find myself calling into question my beliefs more and more.  I am becoming less judgmental, though I still have a very long way to go in that area.  I am realizing that having fewer beliefs is opening me up to more possibilities and that shift is allowing me to find more joy in my life.

We all die, yet very few contemplate death.  This series will do just that.  One may ask, “what then does meditation have to do with death”? That is a good question.  I meditate daily.  It is both simple and hard.  Accepting thoughts and allowing them to dissolve is the practice.  The intent is an effortless calming of the mind.  Attainment of that state is fleeting. There have, however, been a few highly trained and disciplined Buddhist monks who have achieved a meditative state known as Thukdam, where thought processes cease.  They are clinically dead.  They have attained the ultimate calmness of mind.  

I have meditated in front of this painting now a few times and the experience has been deeply calming.  The painting achieves its purpose, in my opinion.  Meditation is the entryway to the vast wonder that lies beyond this life.  Release and acceptance are the key.

Painting completed 10-16-2021 

Painting dimensions: H: 72″ X W: 72″

Thukdam

Thukdam is a meditative state that highly trained and disciplined Buddhist monks can achieve. It is a state of such mental calm that thought processes cease. Clinically, the individual is dead, but the body may take weeks to show normal/traditional signs of death. It is a phenomenon that few understand or comprehend, let alone master. The capability to literally “unthink” oneself to death is an amazing ability in my opinion. Oh, how I long to achieve such calm. . .

The painting is meant to be contemplated in a bottom to top progression. At the bottom is the chaos of thought, but as you visually move upward, the chaos subsides, and a calm/stillness takes over until you reach the top where there are just a few strands. Clear acrylic medium was imperative, in my opinion, for exploring this rare and misunderstood process. Thoughts cannot be defined until they become manifest by action. The same with the clear strands that make up this painting. They are not easily discernable, but their physical presence is undeniable.

Painting completed 10-21-2021 

Painting dimensions: H: 72″ X W: 72″

Nirvana

Nirvana is a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. 

My Freed painting entitled, Nirvana is made up of hundreds of strands of transparent acrylic medium.  How many discussions have you heard where someone is seeking “transparency” from another person or organization, or a person intends to be as “transparent” as possible regarding a subject or action?  In our modern vernacular, transparency = honesty.  This is important to keep in mind when considering my Freed paintings where transparent strands are used.

Nirvana strikes me as being the ultimate state of honesty. . . Completely transparent. . . Completely lacking in deceit and ego.  The painting has no color to distract the observer.  It possesses only (ambiguous) shape and form suspended in space. . . Substance pared down to the essentials.  The painting exudes a form of liberation not previously accessible to viewers.  Viewing a Freed painting is a new experience.  It is not like viewing a “traditional” painting.  Freed paintings obliterate definitions and labels and in their wake, do not leave destruction, rather they provide fertile ground for consciousness and possibility to flourish. 

I see many of my Freed paintings clearly in my mind.  When I complete a painting I am regularly amazed by how closely the finished product matches the mental image.  Often, I don’t feel like a painter at all, rather, I am some sort of human conduit that brings forth magical objects from a place I somehow have access to but don’t understand.  Sometimes I look at my paintings and don’t understand them because I have never seen anything like them before.  It is both a burden and a gift.  But when you relinquish. . . When you willingly walk toward the inferno of your fears. . . When you accept, without concern for consequence, you are walking the path that leads to Nirvana.  That is what I hope this painting conveys. 

Painting completed 11-30-2021 

Painting dimensions: H: 72″ X W: 144

Moksha

Moksha is the transcendent state attained as a result of being released from the cycle of death and rebirth.  Like enlightenment and nirvana, they are esoteric concepts that are not easy to comprehend.  That is why art can be so helpful.  Art taps into primitive as well as evolved realms of human psyche and consciousness.  Art isn’t something you intellectualize, it is something you feel and experience and from there are enriched in a way that somehow doesn’t (necessarily) require your brain, but imbues your essence, your consciousness in an inexplicable way. 

My Freed painting entitled, Moksha is made up of a combination of transparent strands and pearl white strands, creating a luminous visual experience.  It is my rendition of what I imagine the “white light” when you die might look like.  Death is a passageway from our present corporeal existence to a form of existence with unlimited possibility.  I hope viewers feel that sense of liberation when they experience this painting.

Painting completed 12-18-21

Painting dimensions: H: 72” X W: 72”

Transcendence

Transcendence is existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level.  The main subject of the Enlightenment Series is transcendence to elevated planes of existence.  The Freed paintings I have produced are intended to facilitate spiritual liberation, expansion of imagination and deepening of consciousness.  This is the essence of transcendence.  These are attributes that I find sorely lacking in human society.   

Alchemy is the ancient mythic process of transmuting lead into gold.  In this painting I expanded the process by transmuting gold strands into pearl white strands that symbolize evolved consciousness, a commodity even more precious than gold – Transcendence!

Painting completed 1-4-22

Painting dimensions: H: 72” X W: 72”

Enlightenment

I envisioned this painting maybe two years ago.  As I completed other work, this painting percolated in my mind.  Finally, it is here, and it is as grand as I imagined.  I am talking about my Freed painting entitled Enlightenment.

How do you attempt to render something so ephemeral and intangible?  You let go and rely on all the gifts and capabilities you have been given.  That’s what I brought to this painting.  I was emotionally drained when I completed it. 

I wanted to present a universe.  That’s what I imagine enlightenment must be like. . . human concerns suddenly become trivial, and a universal consciousness opens up before you.  There is no fear, no joy, no self.  Only. . . Being. . . It is inexplicable.  That’s why I made the painting.

Painting completed 2-5-22

Painting dimensions: H: 72” X W: 144”

Awake

Awake is an open eye. . . Seeing. . . Aware.  Awake refers to being consciously awake.  The vast majority of humanity is asleep.  It’s kind of like the Matrix.  Human existence, what we call “normality”, is insane.  A government leader can start a war that kills and displaces millions.  Billionaires race each other to go into space while humanitarian crises abound.  Sex trafficking flourishes.  The Kardashians have millions of followers.  Athletes are valued more than educators.  I could go on and on. 

The world is the way the world is because we as human beings want it this way.  If we wanted it another way, we would do something about it.  Humans are capable of virtuous and vicious behavior, and we can choose how we are going to act.  Most people are selfish, so they act in ways that benefit themselves without regard for others.  This is the human reality. . . Dog eat dog. . . Survival of the fittest.  It is ALL sleep.

Waking up requires relinquishing the ego.  Few want to do that, so that is why so much of humanity remains asleep.  I experience peace from time to time.  I awaken briefly to an expanded perception that all too often fades, my ego returning to disrupt the bliss.  That is why meditation is a practice.  The taming of the mind and the ego is a monumental undertaking, but through practice, waking happens more frequently and lasts longer.  Each individual must commit to doing the work it takes to wake up.  It is like the salmon that must swim upstream, against the current, obstacles, bears, to reach the calm pool where they were born.  In that serenity, they give their lives to spawn a next generation and transcend to a greater beyond.  That is what waking up is like.  This painting is meant to represent that arduous journey.  It is a difficult journey, but I believe it is a worthy one. 

Painting completed 4-10-22

Painting dimensions: H: 72” X W: 72”

Bliss

Since early age I have felt spiritually bereft.  In my search for spiritual identity, I found and devoured all the work by Joseph Cambell.  His advice was, “follow your bliss”.  Bliss is defined as perfect happiness, great joy.  It has taken many years, but I am beginning to understand and appreciate the essence of his advice.

Making art is a privilege.  So many people are consumed with just staying alive that they never get the opportunity to explore creativity.  I am so blessed to be able to make art.  That opportunity. . . That expression. . . That bliss shines through in this painting.  I hope you feel it and it brings you joy, as it does me.  My Bliss painting is like looking into a golden universe emanating positive energy and joy.  I hope you feel that when you get the chance to experience this painting.

Painting completed 4-14-22

Painting dimensions:  H: 72” X W: 72”