IMAGE OF THE WEEK
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.