Embrace the Territory, 2015-18
Gouache on paper, 35×30”
The first mark I made on this painting was that central fervent brushstroke. I woke in the middle of the night, alone at home, with an intense energy rushing through me. I felt furiously alive, awake. With urgency, I rushed to my materials and made that stroke. Breathless, I went back to bed.
The next day I began the tiny brushstrokes, continuing along the path of exploring the marks made by sea anemones on the sea floor, as in the massive work The 10,000 Things. These marks are not made by stamp, as many people think. They are individual marks with a tiny paintbrush. I make every effort to stay fully present to each brushstroke, anchored by my breath. As soon as I notice my attention drifting, I take a break.
This painting took me years to finish.
About this kind of markmaking
One Fall day in 2008, I went the to the San Francisco Aquarium. I stood drawing an anemone plumosa, a nearly transparent being stuck to the face of the aquarium glass. After a good chunk of time, I noticed what seemed like fingerprints on the glass. But in the hour I had been there drawing, not a single person had stopped at this tank, let alone pressed themselves against it. Upon closer inspection I discovered the marks, fanning and spiraling in mesmerizing, barely-visible ridges of dust, were the footprints of the anemone— a single tiny mark made over the course of hours. These stunning patterns covered the glass, perhaps months of imperceptible movement by the anemone. The patterns you see in this painting are studies of what I saw on the glass.
Both the visual patterns and the process of creating them gripped me. What trails are you leaving in your life, imperceptible to you, unintentional but devastatingly beautiful nonetheless?
About the title
“Embrace the Territory”, like many of my paintings, sources its name in Buddhist sacred poetry. This particular title comes from the sutra Jewel Mirror Samadhi. An excerpt:
Subtly included within the true,
Inquiry and response come up together.
Communing with the source, travel the pathways,
Embrace the territory and treasure the road.
Respecting this is fortunate; do not neglect it.