The contrast between ongoing American life and following the Tao is ever present. Native-born Chinese will see that I am a different person than their contemporaries. Non-Chinese Americans may see that I have access—and obligations—to traditions that are unknown to them. I am a third-generation Chinese American artist who follows his own tao of being an artist as deeply as possible.
This life is a path that I walk, from birth to death. It is a path of suffering and joys, knowledge and mystery, accomplishments and failures. It is a path of work, of striving, of struggle, but it is one where these seemingly sorrowful things can lead to open vistas of peace and understanding. It is a path where there will always be support and good fortune for those who seek it and work for it, and it is a path where one can find acceptance and even comfort. It is a path of skill and action, devotion and supplication; one uses the ultimate of mind, body, and spirit to discern and then follow it. It is this path, this Tao, this living way that I follow. My path is an artist’s path. The creative force that I feel surging in me is the Tao itself.
Both art and spiritual practice are dialogues with history. One has to know both traditions in order to first appreciate each of them, to practice them, and then to add to them. Otherwise, practice is arbitrary and unconnected with what has gone before. There have been so many extraordinary accomplishments by past masters from which to learn.
Appreciating art seems to be a widely misunderstood endeavor. Many people go to museums and galleries because they want to know more about art. However, appreciating what one is seeing requires a long exploration of art history. A person steeped in art who looks at a painting sees dozens of references and comparisons to other pieces of art. The skilled viewer holds in mind all of art history from around the globe. In every piece, there are references, allusions, and perhaps a witty or shocking departure from what has come before. Unless one internalizes all this, involvement in art is incomplete. Read more