Lion’s Paw Mandala


This pentagonal mandala is a small gouache painting, painted in one sitting in 1993.  It is a visual polyrhythm – my attempt at bringing opposing elements into harmony.  I started with questions: how do you integrate an earthy background – textured like coarse animal fur – with the coolness of purples and blues?  How do you relate straight lines and angular shapes to a flowing curve?  How might a border change as it meets different colors?  How might a color field change when it’s bisected by another  shape?

These “visual physics” constantly occupied my artist’s mind as I gingerly pushed the boundaries that ruled my art.  I was studying the uncanny, enigmatic art of Paul Klée; and of Matisse, who broke every convention under the sun.  I was immersed in African rhythms.  I was reading Buddhist teachings, pondering Eastern philosophy, and contemplating the intersecting layers of human consciousness.

And I had a vision of a footprint that was set in the earth like a fossil, yet paradoxically invoked a sense of motion:  the print of a lion’s paw – powerful and mysterious, primal and transcendent. But this was no ordinary lion, as I had eaten some psilocybin the day before I started this painting.  The image was pulled from the deepest depths of my unconscious.  It was instantly familiar to me, as if I had known it all my life, even grown up with it.  And yet it brought to bear completely unknown elements.  Where did this vision come from?  I wondered, as the mandala kneaded its coarse, hairy background like a newborn nursing cub.

Lion’s Paw Mandala was on the wall of my bedroom for many years.  It remains one of my personal favorites – and one of my most strange and quizzical paintings.





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