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I have been working on "Serenity Reigns" for almost ten years. Its complicated, Frank Lloyd Wrightesque architecture; the confusion between the inside and outside images; and some one's casual remark that the painting was neither here nor there got in the way. I finally worked out the design and other problems and was able to finish it yesterday. I cannot be happier.
The painting depicts a Chinese wooden sculpture from around 1100, a part of the fabulous Chinese art collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The sculpture is not Buddha, but a bodhisattva, an enlightened being who has delayed entering paradise in order to help others attain enlightenment. In China and Korea, Guanyin, his/her Chinese name, is widely worshipped as a “goddess of mercy and compassion". In popular folklore, reciting the bodhisattva’s name during disaster would bring relief. I grew up in a devout Buddhist family, so am quite familiar with Guanyin's importance and popularity in the Buddhist milieu.
Seated in the lotus position, this figure wears the silk garments and gold jewelry befitting a bodhisattva. The gesture of both hands turned up with thumbs touching the middle fingers is perhaps that of discourse or argumentation. Carved during the last creative epoch of Chinese Buddhist sculpture, it expresses the gentle, benign calm of near enlightenment. (The information was collected from the MIA's website.)
On a personal level, I achieved my own calm and near enlightenment as I was working on the painting in the past few days. Let go of anger, frustration, and other emotions that interfere with the inner peace. Don't let others determine what you should paint as well!