Besides preparing for my Heaven & Earth art show this Saturday, I have another show that will begin a couple of days after on Monday, June 2nd, at Pacific Thai in Downtown Santa Cruz.
Some of the pieces I'm exhibiting at Heaven & Earth will be exhibited at Pacific Thai, so for those who can't make it for the one day show, please come to Downtown Santa Cruz and enjoy my Original Finger Paintings in person. The colors are more intense, and many details difficult to capture in photographs are revealed when you experience the paintings in reality.
For this particular work, I wanted to draw on Thai art traditions to create a more harmonious exhibit at the restaurant. I was particularly attracted to the Thai art of the 11th through 12th century, when Buddhist images began to be depicted in a uniquely Thai style and stopped following the aesthetic traditions of India and Greece (which stylized and idealized images of Buddha).
The Thai people made Buddha look more natural, and as with all cultures that adopt a foreign religion, adapted the images of teachers and divinities to look like themselves. There are Black Madonnas and doesn't Jesus look notoriously Anglo-Saxon in the Western countries?
My work isn't merely copying ancient art traditions or established conventions of depiction, so again, the above painting is a fusion of influences: Odilon Redon's powerful portraits, time-worn Japanese Buddhist sculptures made of wood, Tang Dynasty voluptuousness, and of course, 12th century Thai Buddhist art.
In my original conception of this painting, I had the seven-headed Naga (water serpent) King, Muccalinda, shown in his traditional pose of protecting the Buddha by spreading his cobra-like hoods above him like an umbrella. These images are common throughout Thailand and probably represents a native religion merging with the new religion of Buddhism (the myriad Catholic saints and the various guardians in Mahayana Buddhism are similar examples of how people reconcile their belief systems by having their gods "make friends" with the locals).
I decided against this idea after painting the main head of Muccalinda and finding him rather terrifying (he's a guardian figure, after all) and thinking that this might not go over well with guests of the restaurant. (The fear of snakes is also common, so I didn't want to show something provocative in a place that wanted to encourage patrons to come in.)
I can't say I feel it's much of a compromise, though, as there are obviously many images of the Buddha without Muccalinda (but I'm saving the image for a possible later painting!). What interests me more is the potency of the snake as symbol: wisdom, rebirth, renewal, water, life, good fortune, evil, cunning, etc.
So much to be said, without a word.