Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Art of Transcendence [Guest Post by Pam Douglas]

Ten years ago I prepared to die. I was to have life-threatening spine fusion surgery followed by weeks in intensive care followed by three months in pain unable to walk or drive. In that time, I took my hands off the steering wheel of my career and everything others expected of me. The experience led me to contemplate the fragile line between life and what lies beyond.
Pam Douglas, Spirit Moved Upon the Waters, Acrylic on wood, 48 x 30", 2006
My art saved me. On days when I could hardly stand, I propped myself at my painting table, so immersed in the painting before me that my physical disabilities became background noise. The work itself often dealt with transparencies at a time when reality itself was not solid. I also worked with circles, the symbol of universal continuity. The form is a nod to Zen painters who focus on the symbolism of the circle. In fact I revisited my earlier studies in ancient Asian art and philosophy, and those ideas continue to influence my thinking.
Pam Douglas, MessagesAcrylic stain on raw linen, 20 x 20", 2007
Pam Douglas, The Kite Flyer, Mixed media on raw linen, 50 x 16", 2009
Those musings about the circle of life and death occupied my creative output for a decade … until my current series. Now the veil seems to have lifted as I’ve realized I’m going to live. My new paintings are full of joy. The image of a grinning Buddha juggling galaxies in my exhibit conveys where this journey has brought me: to a kind of transcendence that is not about life or death but our unity with the cosmos.
Pam Douglas, Juggling Galaxies, Acrylic on paper with Hubble photos, 54 x 30"
The focus of all my art work is transcendence. That aspiration can be seen in abstract paintings on silk in the last few years, and expressions of the power of earth’s energies – water, fire and air – in the exhibits from 2011-2014.
Pam Douglas, Water BlessingAcrylic on raw linen, 32 x 19", 2011
Pam Douglas, The Eternal BeginningAcrylic on raw linen diptych, each 14 x 52" 2012
Pam Douglas, A Fragile Space, Inks and acrylic on raw silk, 36 x 33" 2013
Pam Douglas, OriginMixed media with string on raw silk, 52 x 58", 2014
My current show, “Galaxies,” at TAG Gallery in Santa Monica (through Sept 26th) blends figures with NASA photos taken by the Hubble Telescope. Through these 11 new paintings, I hope viewers are inspired to feel a personal and direct connection with the stars.

The nature of the artistic process itself invites this sort of exploration, because every act of creation ventures into the unknown, bringing into form something that hadn’t existed before. Artists inhabit that source as they work, and the most impactful works usually arise from that artistic transcendence.

More than 2,500 years ago in ancient China, the philosopher Lao Tzu wrote:
"The wise man looks into space and he knows there are no limited dimensions."
We are all stardust, inseparable from the universe. That perception can inform the way we live each day, choosing whether to dwell in temporary difficulties or feel the awe and power of unlimited dimensions.
Pam Douglas, WowPencil and acrylic on rice paper with Hubble photo, 36 x 26”, 2015
Pam will be part of an Artists' Talk at TAG this Saturday, September 19, 3pm.
She will have copies of her out of print book, "Back to Life: A Journey of Transformation Through Back Surgery" on hand for sale.

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