“For me painting is a gesture of “conscious seeing”. Zen practice is not something distant or esoteric, but simply and fully being alive; hiking being the path, painting the mountains being a mountain. In the most graced moments in the painting studio, I get out of the way and allow the mountains and rivers to paint themselves.
Nature amazes me: light bursting through trees, clouds, CLOUDS!, water’s ability to patiently carve rock. These wonder filled moments,while fleeting, breathe space into my heart. Meditation does the same, although I find it lasts longer. In this tumultuous and dark time in our country and world, nature and meditation are imperative so that facing daily shock and horror, I can step forward with space in my heart to, as Gandhi said, be the peace I want to see in the world.
I began Zen practice in 1996. In 2010, I received lay ordination in the Rinzai Zen tradition and my teacher Shodo Harada Roshi gave me the name EKan, with which I sign paintings. EKan can be translated as the ‘blessing/wisdom borne of seeing with one’s whole being’.”
Creativity has always been a part of Amy’s life. She grew up in an artistic family that valued and had the privilege to prioritize visual arts. Her mother, in particular, infused her with awe and wonder of the natural world. At age 18 despite some desire, Amy decided not to go to art school and to pursue a liberal arts education, and later a Master’s in clinical Oriental Medicine.
Earlier in life, she explored photography, ceramics and wood sculpture. Her interest in ceramics declined after a trip to the South West where she saw pottery shards thousands of years old. She was horrified at the idea her crude creations would last for eons. During four years of global travel interspersed between the ages of 18 and 26, she made occasional journal sketches and tiny paintings with a portable watercolor kit. She has never formally studied painting.
After returning to the US in 1999, artistic endeavors became more humble in scale and medium in deference to work and life. For years, she created collages of paper and pressed leaves, gave them away to friends and continued with photography. After a dozen years without touching a brush, she pulled out her watercolors in the autumn of 2012 and began painting from photographs taken while hiking in her treasured Cascade Mountains. She devoted more time and energy to painting for several years in tandem with her clinic schedule. The current state of the country and world has compelled her to redirect energy toward activism around racial justice and police violence targeting Black and brown members of our community.
“There are times in a life when one traverses this entire continent in a day. Wherever each one of us is coming from, or going to, we can take steps: steps that foster health and well-being in ourselves; collaborative steps toward equity and vitality. There is a place for each one of us here,” text from 2019 New Year’s Card.
Miro Tea ~
Tahoma One Drop Zen Monastery ~ July 2014
In this handout, written for a group show at the Tahoma One Drop Zen Monastery in July 2014, Amy shares some reflections about the relationship between creativity and spiritual practice. This article features the 2014 show. It appears in the NW Dharma Association, the regional Buddhist periodical.