Painting Dharma

This cycle of paintings is inspired by the Sadhana of Mahāmudrā, a sacred Buddhist liturgy revealed by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1968, early in his life’s work of establishing the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. When we chant this text aloud it is not simply a document: we re-enact his realization that in letting go of our fixations, we can experience the vast and luminous spaciousness of awake mind. We can be effortlessly aware of the play of wakefulness. This is the pith of the 2600 years of Buddhist teachings transmitted through Rinpoche to the Shambhala community. In these paintings I am expressing my relationship to those teachings.

These paintings explore the marvelous physicality and uncertainty of encaustic — the ancient medium in which pure pigments are embedded in a blend of natural beeswax and tree resin, which is solid at room temperature but flows as paint when heated above 170 degrees. It is the perfect medium to express the contemplation of Dharma: its fluidity, impermanence and unpredictability, and the need to respond in the moment to what the paint does as it cools into form. The artist heats the paint with a flaming torch or heat gun to make the pigment dance into a desired image. When the surface cools. the image is stable, but will melt and morph again and again as the painter explores the possibilities while reheating the wax and pigment. In the current series of paintings, I’ve experimented with mixing a range of other materials that can ride in diverse ways with the flowing encaustic, each producing its own kind of graphic marks as it disperses in the molten wax.