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
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
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.
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