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. Later my mother taught me techniques she learned in her art classes in college, and we drew and painted together, everywhere.

When I went to college at 16, I thought I would major in art, Spanish or math. However, ultimately I graduated with a BA in linguistics and an MS in mathematics. After exploring the three options, for one semester I was an art major at Rutgers in New Jersey. 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 that I dropped out of school to become a painter-- I felt that taking art classes stifled my creativity. This was a very good thing for me, I created 50 paintings that year and was also involved in creating a co-op gallery in Philadelphia, Vox Populi, which still exists today thirty years later. However, while my art career was off to a great start, after a year, I returned to school to finish my degree, in linguistics at Temple University in Philadelphia. I still felt that studying art in school was not good for my artistic expression. Afterward, I moved to Las Vegas, where I got a MS degree in mathematics and began teaching math and continuing to paint and create while also raising children.

I have now had a thirty year painting career. However, it was not exactly a full-time endeavor. I have also also raised a family, and taught math, Zen Buddhism, meditation, and yoga. I also returned to school for art. First, I worked on a PhD 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. While I was unable to complete this degree due to returning to the United States where a PhD in art theory and practice was not then available, I did later earn an MFA in painting at Howard University with a thesis on Western Zen Painting. This, however, is not important to my artistic growth. In fact, it was likely an impediment, just as I thought it was in the beginning of my career.

Though I am a very prolific painter, I have lately been creating incredibly detailed paintings that take quite a long time to produce. My first year as a painter, I created fifty paintings, and over the years I have reduced the number of works I create due to a shortage of space. After years of deliberately reducing the numbers of paintings that I have createddue to a lack of space and time, I am now dedicating more time to my art career once again, and I am more eager than ever to sell my work. I have thirty years of artwork, much of it on this website, all of it for sale, and on sale! If you see anything you like, you can probably have it for a reasonable price. In fact, one of my missions is to get artwork, real original creative works in people's houses! We can afford to buy original art as surely as we can afford to frame it and buy posters and prints and other prefabricated mass-produced 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 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.

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.