Artist's Biography and Statement

Being and Becoming a Zen Artist

Born in Brooklyn, and raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Gwendalin Aranya has been an artist her entire life. Her mother was also an artist and taught her everything she knew. Ms. Aranya also learned through art classes at school where she had several teachers who had a positive influence on her as a young artist. At 12, she earned a scholarship to the Baum School of Art in Allentown. One of her art teachers taught her to doodle, and another taught her to draw by looking at the subject and not the paper. These were taught to everyone of course, but these were significant teachings in this artistÕs education which led her to become a Zen artist, long before she knew what that meant.

At 16, Ms. Aranya attended Bard College at SimonÕs Rock (Then SimonÕs Rock of Bard College) where she illustrated a field guide to medicinal plants. It was at Rutgers University in New Jersey two years later that she first picked up a paintbrush and learned to paint. Delighted with painting, she quit school to become a painter. However, after a year or so, she returned to finish her degree in Linguistics. While she continued to paint, she also continued her education, earning degrees in Mathematics, and after some study toward a PhD in Art Theory and Practice and Computer Science at the University of Western Australia, she ultimately completed an MFA in Painting at Howard University. She then continued to teach math in college while also pursuing her art career. After many years of dual careers while raising children, she is now focusing all of her attention on art.

In her early twenties Ms. Aranya discovered Zen Buddhism and at once knew that her approach to art was Zen. Since then she has considered herself a Zen artist. She had always been a Zen artist, but didnÕt know it before she knew what Zen was. Zen art is done as a meditation in which the artist and subject are one. It is not planned, and it does not come from a place of thinking, but rather a place of being. There is no subject and no object. A few years after making these discoveries of Zen and Zen art, Ms. Aranya became an ordained Zen priest, and her dharma is to share Zen with the world through her art. She currently splits her time between the Washington DC metro region and Southwest Florida, dedicating her time to this dharma of sharing Zen through art.

Zen Art and My Current Work

In my early twenties I discovered Zen Buddhism and with it I found that my approach to art was itself Zen. I had all of my life been doing Zen art. To do Zen art is to just paint, like just being, and to become one with the object being painted so there is no more object and no more subjectÑ egoless creation. Zen art is a form of meditation. A few years after discovering Zen Buddhism and becoming Buddhist, I became a Zen priest. While I have, since then, taught Buddhism and meditation, the focus of my Zen and my priesthood is to spread the Zen Buddhist message through my artwork itself.

What is important and different about Zen art is nothing at all! Many are Zen artists without knowing what Zen is, as I once was. Zen art does not pretend to tell you anything or to be based around ideas! This is like supposedly meditating, but really you are thinking. There is nothing I am trying to do. There is no theme to fit in to the necessary constraints of others. There is no necessary stylistic unity. There is just creation and being creation, and at the same time being nothing at all.

That said, you will find thematic trends in my art, though perhaps not as much as you might be accustomed to finding. I have painted a lot of images from nature, and with Buddhist themes, such as the waterlilies I have focused on now for more than fifteen years! Waterlilies (lotuses) are an important Buddhist symbol of enlightenment. Each painting takes a very long time and I have an abundance of photographs of waterlilies. I keep going back and taking more! This focus will not likely end anytime soon. Each painting is a meditation: the process of painting is a meditation, and the viewing is also a meditation. Please enjoy and Rest in JOY!