The artists in the contemporary art show Living Here are, like many people in Woodstock, individual thinkers, people who do not let the opinions of others silence their own inner voices, but follow their hearts.
Original thinking evolves in many different ways, different for each person. Sometimes one is shocked into thinking independently, sometimes it arises out of a painful situation, a deep loss or betrayal. Sometimes one is born with the ability to think for oneself, sometimes it just seems to come out of nowhere. It takes courage to follow your own intuition. It is radical to think for yourself. But when you do, everything becomes new, and new can be glorious.
When someone discovers this newness, or “now,” they might begin to contemplate meaning. When one contemplates meaning, one contemplates death, impermanence. Then questions arise. How close can you get to looking at death? How much are you willing to let go? What happens when you hold on, what happens when you have nothing to lose? Living each day as if it is your last, is freedom, love and truth important?
Asian culture generally embraces these questions while Western culture does a lot to avoid them. So, an artist in the Western world may be drawn to and find support in Asian culture, philosophy, thought and spirituality. An artist may find a dialogue, making art with ideas of being, of the meaning of death and life, of stillness, the center, of dharma, because to begin a work of art, one lets go of oneself. An artist needs to get out of the way to let the art come through. When an artist gets out of the way, it is a kind of death, a letting go of external expectations, pride, fear of embarrassment or failure. When these things melt away what is left is, what matters, it is the meaning, it is simply, being. You are both dead and alive in the same moment. You are the creative force that comes through you.
This is also what I understand Buddha nature to be, to be alive in the moment, to be truly you. Everything and nothing at the same time...a balance...a middle way. Buddha nature is what artists in Living Here have allowed in their work or in the way that they work. Each artist, whether deliberately or by accident, has found a way to let the creative force come through from a place of stillness, from vast emptiness, from a place of absolute potential.
What is also beautiful about this, is that it is an act of generosity. To give, to communicate to the world and to share this place of presence. To be gifted is not just physically manifested talents, but it is also the ability to give.
Everyone deserves to be whole and free from suffering. The act of creating art can be a gift, an invitation to the viewer to experience freedom, to clear away what one clings to, or to understand a new way of seeing...with your own eyes.
The 17th Karmapa is a gifted artist. Who understands the importance of communication through art, a visual understanding that transcends language. He is reaching out to the community, aspiring, to go beyond dogma, ritual, and culture, to celebrate what we share as humans on the planet.
We are all of this planet, the Earth, this is what we all share. So it follows that the Earth, as dear and essential as it is to us, needs to be cared for. When we care for each other, it can’t really be separated from caring for the Earth. So, it is this theme as well that emerges in art and in Buddhism, our aspirations to care for and heal the Earth, to care for and heal ourselves and each other.
My deepest love and appreciation go to the monks and nuns at KTD. For 900 years the Tibetan monastic community has cultivated what is admirable, noble, and kind in human nature.
For over 30 years the citizens of Woodstock have been graced with the gentle loving kindness and compassion of these precious beings. The Tibetan culture is rich in its rituals and many practices. What they have tirelessly generated, and teach us to generate, is reflected effortlessly now in our simple, everyday human exchanges.
Forced to flee on foot over treacherous terrain, under dangerous conditions, pursued by attackers, pummeled by bullets and political propaganda, risking starvation, and losing many along the way, leaving homes, land, animals, friends and families behind, these beloved refugees grace us with absolute loving kindness. Tibetan Buddhism is a culture of love.
Our teachers and friends on the top of Meads Mountain are here for one basic reason. They aspire to alleviate suffering for all beings. This incredible gift is here in our own backyard.
I would like to thank everyone at KTD and His Holiness the 17th Karmapa for reaching out to embrace American contemporary artists in an ongoing exchange of ideas, extending loving hands, minds and hearts to be here with us, to begin always again, to be here now, together.