Art and Meditation / by Jeannine Cook

I recently read a fascinating review in Art in America (April 2009) by Edward M. Gomez, entitled Altered States. It was a review of the just-closed exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum on "The Third Mind", which examined the influence of Asia on earlier generations of artists. Apparently, many of those artists meditated, a result of their interest in Buddhism. Their ability to pay attention to matters deemed "ordinary" and to be able to "suspend time" derived, it was thought, from their practice of meditation. Artists as diverse as Arthur Dove or John Cage were cited in the article.

Thinking about the role of meditation in my own experience made me realise that although I do indeed meditate, I find that the act of making art is in itself a form of meditation. Most artists I know find that time becomes a very variable affair, since we all lose track of time very easily when creating art. However, I also find that I become much more efficient at using the rest of my time, away from art, to do all the other daily chores when I am working on a painting or drawing. I wonder if that is a common occurrence? It is also easy to pay close attention to whatever art and subject of art I am involved with, although I don't know that I would attribute that aspect of art-making to the practice of meditation.

When I am not able to work as an artist, I find I get really dislocated, and so it is a relief to revert to mediation to make life more serene. Brain circuitry in artists must be predicated on a daily "fix" of art, apparently!

The rhythm of observation and creation, drawing and looking, is indeed addictive. Even when I find myself inside because of bad weather, as happened when I was Artist in Residence once at Wild Acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, there is a meditative peace and serenity from trying to create harmony and yet accuracy in a silverpoint drawing. Even with the most humble of materials!

This was the result of two days of solid rain and yet I had little realisation of how much time elapsed during the execution of the drawing.

Blue Ridge Mountain Meditation

silverpoint 11 x 15" image
collection of Evansville Museum of Arts, Science and History, Evansville, IN