Modern Art as Buddhist Practice

I’ve been listening to a lecture series recently that has me inspired/excited about writing. The speaker is Joan DePaoli, author of Transparent Thread. Her talk is Buddhist Art as Buddhist Practice, but I think it would more aptly be called Modern Art as Buddhist Practice.

The first two lectures give an overview of 2500 years of dharma art history. When the Buddha was alive he told his followers not to make any art with his image. For the first few hundred years his instructions were followed and Buddhist art were primarily meditation sites, like stupas. Then things changed and people started to make statues of the Buddha. DePaoli discusses this change and other changes as Buddhism spread into various cultures.

This discussion was interesting and informative. But in the third and fourth lecture, she begins talking about western art. Her thesis for this talk (and I presume for her book is that for the past 100 years western art has been dharma art.

As many people know Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh studied Japanese Zen art. But who would have guessed that Marcel Duchamp kept a library of dharma texts? And I had no idea thatJames Rosenquist (who’s paintings I found so I found so moving during a 2003 visit to the Guggenheim Museum) visited Naropa Boulder Summer Writing Program?!

DePaoli’s discussion has not only made some things more clear to me about contemporary art, but also affirmed some of my own creative intentions/choices.


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