I was inspired by some work I had seen at the alternative art fair in Florida during Art Basel. Artists were creating alter egos, and this coincided with my identifying more and more with my dog, Sammie. I wanted to create a painting that would allow me to explore experiences that still haunt me, but I wanted to do it as a Buddha. Since I am nowhere near Buddha status, I selected a doggie as myself. Saying I am a dog-faced Buddha allows me to be both low and high, experiencing life from both vantage points. I won’t get into any of the other imagery in this work. Instead, I will paraphrase a favorite expression of my mother’s, when speaking of her children: Some things should be seen, rather than heard.
I thought this painting was a symptom of my falling off the Buddhist wagon for a while. Now, I think it combines the influence of the Buddhist literature I have been reading with my innate sense of the wrongness of so much of the work-a-day world. Before I started to read about Buddhism and meditate, I felt that so much of our efforts are for naught. Life just keeps knocking us down, no matter what we accomplish. That is a lousy way to look at life. So I have tried hard to temper it with this: love everyone because we are all suffering. Open your heart to everyone, and they will open their hearts to you, and before you know it we will all be in a better place, one filled with love and harmonious relationships. The Bodhisattva in this painting is suffering, but she is sharing her love, and her merde with us all: illustrating the worst of both ways of thinking.
This is the painting I donated for the ShadFest auction. I had to leave the room when they auctioned it off because I was too afraid it would get no bids. I read Shout, Sister, Shout by Gayle F. Wald in 2007 when it was published by the Beacon Press. It made a big impression on me. I was thrilled that the two women’s relationship was brought to light in the book, and I marveled at how brave Sister Rosetta was, living her life and playing her brand of music, with no apologies. The theme of this year’s ShadFest was “A different kettle of fish” and I think Sister Rosetta and Marie Knight fit that description well.