Mahamrityunjaya,, 2010-2013 , Oil on linen
42 x 74 ½ in. (diptych) , courtesy of the artist.
To choose one work, I would focus on the Mahamrityunjaya diptych. There are actually
two works with this same title in the exhibit, one is a painting; the other on paper. But the
painting came about over the course of several years and uses a different handling of
process and materials. The panel on the left was begun a couple of years earlier than the
panel on the right. This is also the first painting in which I include the written text of
mantra. The mantra is to the three levels of Śiva; its title translates into Victory Over
Death. But I’ve been working with this mantra, and with mantra, the best way to
understand its deeper meaning is by chanting it. I have a fascination with the science of
how sound is capable of altering matter.
So for awhile, I was working with this mantra, and chanting it daily 108 times. I would
sense these visions of swirling energy in the air around me, which I attempt to capture
here. But there is also a tribal aspect to this piece. There exists a tribal lineage
surrounding Śiva; there also exists a tribal lineage of medicine tradition in the Amazon
jungle, which is growing globally. Having a foot in both worlds so to speak, I bring both
these worlds together in this painting. The patterned imagery in the first layer of this
painting is a re-use of a stencil design I made for a window installation for the Walsh
Gallery at Seton Hall University (2012) called Tribu, Tribu (image on my website). For
that installation I hand-cut the stencil and painted it onto the glass. In the right panel of
this painting Mahamrityunjaya, which I decided to add to the left panel after the
installation, I re-use the same stencil – a diagonal pattern of triangles – to set a tribal
And of course, the whole mantra is reproduced here, but slippery to read because it is in
the middle plane, between former layers and over-lying layers of pattern. I really felt in
order to illustrate my personal experience, the words needed to be in the middle. Being
able to read them is not the priority, but to feel the energy of the sound when the mantra
An English translation would go something like this:
“Om we worship the three-eyed one (Śiva) who is fragrant and who nourishes all beings.
May Śiva severe our bondage to worldly life, like a cucumber severed from the bondage
of its creeper, and liberate us from the fear of death by our realization that we are never
separated from our Immortal Nature.”
Perhaps going into my elder years has me contemplating physical mortality. So maybe
this piece is personal and somewhat autobiographical of the spiritual direction my life
and work is taking now. There is a saying, in some of the spiritual circles I’ve sat in, that
there is the practice of how to die. Working with this mantra, assists such a practice.
Q 5. Is there anything you in particular you hope viewers will get out of this exhibition?
In a sense, I would like for people to feel better after they’ve spent time with the work.
I see these works as medicine pieces. Neuron-stimulators. Serotonin injections. Imagery
that becomes activated when viewed.
A recent statement written about my work describes this experience:
“The eyes search for an interpretation. But perhaps what we’re seeing is a mirror of our
own minds at that moment, a visualization of the synapses firing as we try to make sense
of it.” (Chloe Kanner, Enlightened Art, The Stowe Reporter, Sept. 5, 2013)