Meditation can be applied to all aspects of life, whether taking a walk, doing the dishes or making artwork. The act of creating requires focus and flow without judgment, similar attributes of meditation.
For longtime Buddhist practitioner and artist Carol Meckling, it made sense that an art show would fit into the underused space of local meditation and Buddhist hub, Durango Dharma Center.
“I noticed there was a space downstairs that could be put to good use,” Meckling said.
The Seattle transplant proposed the idea of the first-ever art show, “Intention - Stillness - Activity,” which will open Friday and will run through December. The purpose of the show is to bring support to the Dharma community, provide artwork to the community that reflects their spiritual practices and to spotlight local artists who have limited options to display their work in town.
“There are a lot of fantastic artists in Durango and not enough venues that are showing,” Meckling said.
Meckling and four other artists and members of the Dharma Center sangha (community) are showing more than 20 pieces that reflect different Buddhist themes, such as compassion and kindness. The other artists are Barbara Klema, Ilze Aviks, Melissa Percell and Andrea Martens. Meckling said they are all process-oriented artists who follow their intuition more than a strict planned procedure.
Dharma art is not necessarily literal representations of Buddhism, though there will be some representative pieces, such as the beaded malas and repetitive mantra work by Percell.
Most of the work that will be on display is abstract. Dharma art refers to the meditative state of mind an artist is in while creating work. For example, former Fort Lewis College instructor Aviks creates textile pieces with tedious stitching.
“I’ve never been in a show where there is this spiritual direction,” Aviks said. Her pieces in the exhibit are images of the cosmos and atoms, which represent the idea of impermanence, a prominent teaching of Buddhism.
“There is no moment you can fix,” Aviks said. “You are not fixed. Your personality is not fixed.”
The repetitive process of her stitches is also a form of silent meditation.
“(The process is) enhanced by the ideas of meditation – the idea of entering something quietly,” Aviks said.
Meckling is an acrylic painter who also makes fiber art and ceramic jewelry. She was an artist before she started formal meditation. Though in hindsight, she said she was meditating while painting before she had a vocabulary for it.
“As an adult, I realized my first experiences with meditation were through making art,” she said. “It’s that process of being in the moment and being with what’s there. Time stands still when you are really concentrated in it. That is where I was developing my concentration.”
Today, she uses multiple meditation techniques while making art, such as setting an intention, a Buddhist practice of aligning inner values with action, before she begins a new piece.
“Sometimes, I’ll write words on the board that I have that help me set an intention,” she said.
She’ll write “loving, kindness, joy and equanimity” on the board underneath the paint, hiding an Easter egg in the piece that only she knows about. Her painting process involves the practice of being in the present moment, too – a useful tool for creativity, which can be paralyzed by overthinking.
“I’ll start to take colors and put them down on the board without a specific thing in mind,” she said. “It starts out with just putting paint down and moving it around and see what’s showing up.”
This free-flowing style of painting reminds Meckling of one of her favorite quotes by Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa.
“(Dharma artists’) message is simply one of appreciating the nature of things as they are and expressing it without any struggle of thoughts or fears,” he said.
The joy of making art comes from this freedom, Meckling said.