I finally finished this piece. It almost did me in. It's a chapter from the Koran called 'The Prophets', and the shapes are stylized Arabic letters, known as square Kufic script. To read it is a puzzle; apparently even if you read Arabic it would be difficult to figure out what it says, much like a zen koan. But with some effort a Muslim can decipher it. This particular one says:
La ilaha illa Allah, wa Muhammadun rasul Allah.
(There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah.)
This piece, along with 14 others, will be going to a gallery in London, called Artspace London. It's a gallery that's run by Muslims, and their clientele is primarily Muslims. I'll be showing with a master Chinese and Arabic calligrapher, Haji Noor Deen, which kinda sorta blows my wee mind. I'm totally honored to be asked to show 1) in a Muslim gallery, and 2) with him. How dope is that? Anyway, I'm pretty close to having all the pieces finished. The show opens on May 29.
This morning I awoke with a pimple the size of Lithuania. Same shape, too. It's just below the lip, and what's weird is that I can actually feel it, like, without touching it; it has Presence, in other words. There's something epic about it. I mean, what's a perimenopausal woman doing with a monster zit? Gives me a good excuse to stay home and finish a big text piece that I've been working on since last October. I'm so close to being done - maybe three hours, which is probably why I'm writing rather than working in my studio.
It's grueling doing these rambling texts. It's like finishing a long novel - you're dying to be done with it, but also a little sad to let it go. Same with selling a piece, which has been happening more frequently. In truth I'd rather not let any of them go, because they're like my children. But if someone offers you a good price for your child, what do you do? You sell. It's the same with selling art; breaks my heart all the way to the bank.
But these long ones are brutal. They go on + on + on, and I become pretty intimate with it. This particular passage is from the Koran, Surah 21:
Nay, we hurt the Truth against falsehood,
and it knocks out its brain, and behold!
Falsehood doth perish! Ah, woe be to you
for the false things you ascribe to Us!
...and so on. Sorta heavy, right?Not something you'd choose to read for entertainment, and yet I've been reading it since October, over and over. I cut the letters from the book of Psalms in the Bible. It's a nice piece. Probably not something that you'd want unless you were a Muslim, but it's going to be showing in a Muslim gallery in May, so we'll see how it's received. Odd to be so entrenched in Koran-based work when I'm not a Muslim. The Koran speaks to me with a beautiful voice, but I stay on the periphery. It's not mine to either question or adopt a system of belief. I prefer to walk around the edge of the pool, admiring its water and swimmers, but I choose not to dive in and join them.
So with my self-imposed solitary confinement, I ought to finish this up tonight, and then I'll be able to move on to the next piece. In the meantime, I trust that my pimple will perish, along with all falsehood, and without the need for divine intervention.
Subhan'Allah means in Arabic "Allah is great", or, more specifically, "Allah is greater than". Greater than what? Anything, including your life. 'Nuff said. I mixed it up a bit and threw in the Lord's Prayer, the beloved Christian prayer. God/Allah/Yahweh/Shiva/Brahman is greater than any partiality, any specificity that we can or will or do dream up. God is greater than our petty definitions; God is greater than our naive dogmas; God is greater than the trivialities that separate one belief system from the next. God is greater than all of that.
White Tara is a Buddhist deity, and the first female to become enlightened within the Buddhist tradition. She was a flesh and blood woman who lived in ancient times, and yearned to be enlightened. She sought out teachers to that end, and they all told her the same thing: You can only become enlightened if you're a man. Over and over she kept getting the same advice: Pray to be reborn as a man, and then you can pursue enlightenment. But this woman, whoever she was, was insistent that she could and would become enlightened as a woman. She kept getting reborn as a chick, and continued to pursue enlightenment, always with resistance from those in the spiritual know (all men).
Finally, after many rebirths and refusals, she achieved enlightenment, and was named White Tara. She's the goddess of compassion, long life, and perseverance. If you have a project that you seriously need some help with, you'd do well to grease White Tara's palm with the following mantra, which is her direct hotline:
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA
I attended a White Tara ceremony a few years ago in Manhattan, through the New Kadampa Tradition sect of Buddism. During the ceremony we recited a beautiful prayer to White Tara, and this is what comprises the above text piece. The prayer was rather long, and as a result, the above piece is three layers deep. The letters are cut from the Koran. Blessings to those who give due respect to the mysterious and brave woman who became White Tara.
In my creative work I weave together spiritual traditions by cutting up the text of holy books letter by letter and refiguring them to create passages from other holy books. I incorporate and 'cross pollinate' the sacred writings of all spiritual traditions, suggesting that all religions derive from the same source, and are sustained in the same unwavering faith.
You can see the work at my website: