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Natural Acts


A recent trip to Japan to visit our son inspired this series based on traditional Japanese garden principles. The Zen Garden celebrates nature by trying to capture its essence. By simplifying, implying and sometimes symbolizing nature, even the tiniest garden can suggests the larger natural world. Inside both the parameter of the garden and the circle of the mandala is considered sacred space, where art and nature collaborate to create serenity and reverence for life.

The border of the Zen Garden and the drawn circle of the mandala helps keeps the mind focused and a meditative stillness is established in both by incorporating the principle of ma, meaning "empty space" in Japanese.

As in the garden, the key is to find the right balance between calm simplicity, emphasized here by use of a quiet, almost monochromatic palette, and gentle movement which is fostered in the mandalas by the asymmetrical design and motion of natural and drawn elements.

Often in traditional gardens, an object of nature is isolated in the landscape and becomes a focus for reverence and contemplation, following the idea of wabi. I learned that Tea Masters in medieval Japan would introduce specially chosen old objects and make them a pivotal element of the garden design. In my mandalas, 2000-year-old oyster shell, lichen or knotholes become "rediscovered things" (mitate-mono in Japanese) giving the viewer renewed appreciation for something that had once been discarded or overlooked.

In both the garden and the mandalas, there is a juxtaposition of opposites: the natural state of things vs. gentle manipulation, material vs. the void, life vs. death, and decay vs. regeneration.