Practicing Non-Attachment

The inspiration for this piece happened one morning after Zazen practice. James Martin was staying here at the old Andrews School for a few months, working on preparing potential photographic images for two books I hope to create. We also practiced Zazen most mornings in the schoolroom. It was after one of these sessions that I saw what was the beginning of this painting: James was wearing his all­ black hipari with a black hoodie and black yoga pants. He was stretched out on the old couch in the Teacherage, lying against a white sheet I had put over the velvet couch to help keep it clean during the dusty months here in the desert. I made a blurry photograph of him, just enough to help me remember the form and shape.

From there it moved to a wooden panel that I had but I soon realized that the panel was not tall enough to accommodate the image the way I wanted! I decided to add another panel for the head of the figure and make the painting a diptych. I had a panel custom-­made in Los Angeles. I liked the idea that the head was separate from the body of the figure. I began chalking in the forms and then building up surfaces in bas relief using gesso in a squeeze bottle with a fine cake decorating tip. This process took two weeks to achieve.

I began writing in words that James tended to use when he spoke of his practice. Also names of others he had had relationships with. Names of spiritual teachers he was listening to. His hoodie morphed into a mushroom cap. James is interested in natural plants—entheogens like Ayahuasca and mushrooms that are believed to expand consciousness and break down stories and ego. I wrote these things into the surface also but would often obscure what had been written by scratching it out or writing over the top of previously written words. I planned to leaf over these areas so that the only way someone could read what had been written was from the raised surface and how the light illuminated it.

The figure has one eye open and one eye closed; one eye looking inward and the other looking outward. The figure's clothing became the universe with stars, galaxies and planets The Earth was painted large and centered within the figure. A rainbow enters the figure from the top into his head, a metaphor for light and beauty of spirit. The figure's skin is colorless, it is painted in grey and white. This symbolizes James' search for his self; his enlightenment.

On one arm there appears a band of traditional Balinese black, white and grey checkered fabric that symbolizes sacredness and spirit. The other arm has a band showing a diagram of sacred geometry: Metatron's Cube. A Caapi vine is growing up the figure's left leg, a vine used in preparation of the Amazonian entheogenic drink, Ayahuasca. James sometimes spoke of hoping to go to the Amazon to experience this drink. The vine represents the pulling of one's self back to the Earth from where it came, grounding it back to an infinite awareness. The shell on the figure's upper left chest symbolizes sacred geometry: this universal logarithmic spiral some say is the “fingerprint of god”. There is a small red boat half submerged and/or emerging from the waters which represents James' relationship with his current partner; keeping the relationship afloat through the practice of mindfulness.