12”x12”, encaustic, 2020 February. This illustrates why I love playing with this medium! Donated to the Mendocino Botanical Garden. Inspired by the State of Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Quote from The Satisfaction Trap by Arthur C. Brooks (conversation between the author and his guide at the National Palace Museum in Taiwan):
"What do you think of when I ask you to imagine a work of art that is yet to be started?"
"An empty canvas, I guess" - I responded.
"Right" - he said. Many Westerners tend to see art as being created from nothing. But there's another way to view it: "The art already exists," and the job of the artists is simply to reveal it. He told me that his image of art yet to be started was an uncarved block of jade, like what ultimately became the Buddha in front of us. The art is not visible until the artist takes away the stone that is not part of the sculpture, but it is already there nonetheless. Not all artistic philosophy fits this East-versus-West distinction; Michelangelo once said, "The sculpture is already complete in the marble block, before I start my work ... I just have to chisel away the superfluous material." But I took my guide's point in - as it were - broad strokes.
Art mirrors life, and therein lies a potential solution to the satisfaction dilemma.
As we grow older in the West, we generally think we should have a lot to show for our lives - a lot of trophies. According to numerous Eastern philosophies, this is backwards. As we age, we shouldn't accumulate more to represent ourselves, but rather strip things away to find our true selves - and thus, to find happiness and peace. The Tao Te Ching, a Chinese text compiled around the fourth century B.C. that is the foundation of Taoism, makes this point with elegance:
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.
When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.