Although I was formally trained in art, the greatest lesson, and the one that has most influenced my work, was the lesson I learned from my spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan. He taught me to be unattached to the work, to the process and to the idea of an identity as an artist. Since the source of most suffering is from attachment, this was the most precious art lesson I’ve ever received.
By letting go of attachment, I was able to explore a much more vast number of choices regarding materials, techniques, styles, subject matter, intentions and colors. Literally every aspect that had earlier been important parts of my intellectual and emotional concept of my work was dissolved, leaving open vast opportunity.
For example, I had been painting on a very tiny scale, with the smaller dimension of a rectangle being less than one foot. This scale was arrived at over a fairly long period of time with much serious consideration. By releasing previous attachments I became liberated from my own self-induced boundaries and the result led to experiences and exploration in scale that continues to this day.
The most profoundly enjoyable outcome of expanding my definition of art has come from leaving behind the idea that any particular piece of fine art should be done by an individual. My wife and I have been sculpting and painting together now for many years and it clearly is my preference. Not only is the process more pleasurable as a shared experience, but also it yields much more exciting and unexpected outcomes. The final piece always exceeds the limitations of our individual concept of the particular piece.
Western culture has created a pervasive stereotype of the artist as an individual who works to express themselves and their identity through some particular media. The ability to drop emotional and intellectual attachment to this caricature is one of the most precious gifts I have ever received.