GWENDALIN QI ARANYA
Artist's Biography and Statement



Being and Becoming a Zen Artist

Born in Brooklyn, and raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I have been an artist ever since I can remember. My mother was an artist, and I was blessed with a very creative and artistic childhood. Among my earliest memories I recall sitting behind my mother as she painted, I was drawing, copying her. This was a routine. Together we also wallpapered our walls by creating collages on our walls. My mother was also a dressmaker, so I remember women coming to be fitted for clothes. Even then, I loved the beauty of the human form. Later my mother taught me everything she learned in her art classes in college, and we drew and painted together, everywhere.

In college in New Jersey, I briefly majored in art, and I fell in love with oil painting from the moment I picked up a paintbrush in my first painting class. Previously I had only done a few watercolors and acrylics in high school or on my own. In fact, I so fell in love with painting, I immediately dropped out of school to become a painter-- I felt that my artwork outside of school was better than what I did in school. I created 50 paintings that year! However, while my art career was off to a great start, after a year, I returned to school to finish my degree, in Linguistics from Temple University in Philadelphia, determined to keep my art career and any other work I might need do, separate. Afterward, I moved to Las Vegas, where I got a MS degree in Mathematics, all the while continuing to paint.

In the thirty years since becoming a painter, I have continued to paint, exhibit and sell my work worldwide, while also raising a family, teaching math, and teaching Zen Buddhism, meditation, and yoga. In addition, I received an MFA from Howard University in painting with a thesis on Western Zen Painting. I also did PhD work in art and computer science at The University of Western Australia with a dissertation topic of computer generated art using L-systems (a mathematical formal language) which brought together my loves for mathematics, art, and language.
 


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 subject— 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.

Currently, I am primarily working with a particular focus on waterlilies (lotuses), an important Buddhist symbol of enlightenment. This has been my focus for the past twelve years. Each painting takes a very long time and I have an abundance of photographs of waterlilies. While I throw in some other subject matter here and there, I continue to have a plethora of lotuses to paint, all from my photos taken at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens! Each painting is a meditation; the process of painting is a meditation, and the viewing also is a meditation. They are created through meditation for meditation. Most of my paintings are created using my photographs of nature. Each stage of the process is Zen, the photography, painting, and printmaking.

One of my objectives as a Zen artist is to act as a mirror on the world, giving back to the world what is right there but unnoticed. Beauty abounds all around us, no matter where we are, but we tend not to notice it. It is our scenic background, all but invisible as we get caught up in our unreal worlds. I take photos, noticing small things we see all around us everyday. I focus them and make them larger so that we may notice them and they may pull us away, even just a little, from that stuff we consider so vitally important but really isnít so very important. Through these pieces, we may bring the proper focus to our existence, bringing prominence to the natural beauty all around us, as it should be. I take the time to notice and give back that which is given to me.