It was my wife Rowena that taught me. The bread in the Priest’s hands is not a symbol of the body of Christ. It is the body of Christ. The wine is the blood of Christ. An icon offers the same chance for communion. The young girl at the Gates of Dawn in Vilnius does more than view an artifact. She becomes part of its history, the history of the church that kept this image for centuries and the community that has protected the church. She participates in the embodiment of a young Palestinian girl in fear for her life and the life of her newborn child fleeing a great evil. She becomes part of an ongoing act of creation; the ethereal eternal life of the meaning of Faith.
Whether it is the story of the Last Supper, the Ghost Dance of the First Nations, the Sufi Sama or the Silver Madonna each culture offers communion. A transcendent and epiphanic experience that embodies a larger understanding. But it is always a work of art that is the point of contact, the navel from which Vishnu’s lotus springs. In Eastern cultures the Lotus represents many important concepts and appears in countless images and sculptures. One image pervasive to Hinduism is Vishnu in repose, Lakshmi at his feet, as he dreams the Universe. A lotus grows from his navel and within the lotus is Brahma, the creator. Everywhere the Buddha steps a lotus flower blooms. The opening petals embody the expansion of the soul. It embodies the ascension of the spirit from the earthly depths to the light of Heaven, the spirit that cannot be blemished.
It was the holy book “Outdoor Life Magazine” that led me. “Lunker Largemouth Lurk Beneath the Lily Pads” proclaimed the cover that featured a Bass with a feathered jig in its mouth soaring above a water lily. It looked just like the five pounder that hung on my friend's wall, and if there was anything my twelve-year-old self wanted it was a stuffed fish I could call my own. I knew just where to go. The east shore of City Lake was covered with Lily pads, completely covered. There was not an opening for my cast much larger than a truck tire and it was nearly impossible to reel in the lure without snagging the pads' long underwater stems. I decided to try the old standby of bait and bobber. But as it turns out the promised bass were not fond of this combo and I would spend many fishless hours watching the red and white plastic orb float motionlessly. Eventually I left the rod and reel at home and spent the days at the water’s edge amongst the enormous purple, pink and white flowers in solitude
This was my first Aesthetic experience. Something I chose for myself that had no desired outcome save its own existence. It is here that I learned about the bond of beauty and silence. I came because those two things dwelled there. I told no one, not even my family, of this. I didn’t know how. In college I tried. Our Eastern Art class spent a couple of days on the symbolism of the lotus. I found it quite exciting that half the world found significance in the same thing I did. But my understanding of the lotus was very different from the text and since my ideas wouldn’t be on the test they were greeted with a profound blank stare by the circle of friends that study grouped Art History 205.
As an artist I don’t just want to make pretty pictures; I want to give. And if I were to give you anything it would be the experience of being a young boy learning how beautiful the world is. How beautiful he is. We would follow the Tao down to the low places that most avoid and although we would walk through mud to get there, we would not be blemished. We would be there to witness the expansion of his soul. We would travel Vishnu’s universe together. We would never leave this place.
Until I can offer this experience, I will offer you its familiar.
I will take paper and ink and paint and whatever else helps me find the image that I have held dear for four decades. I will bind all these things together. I will offer you One Child’s Icon.