“Our art is always communicating, and we need to be conscious of what its message is.”—John Daido Loori, The Zen of Creativity
As part of the continuing discussion of how Zen philosophy can enrich our artistic life, I want to share John Daido’s concept of the Jeweled Mirror—the importance of listening to feedback about our art, in order to understand how others see our work.
I had an outstanding professor once—Charles Moone, who was head of the art department at UCD. One of the very valuable things he taught me was that our art has a story to tell. He said that it was important to pay attention to that story, and then when we had learned what we needed to, the art would be ready to move on to the next person, to tell them the story they needed to hear.
Allow me to share an experience I had about this concept.
One afternoon, when I was sitting for my show at my gallery in Denver, a gentleman and his wife came in. They wandered slowly from piece to piece, discussing their impressions quietly. They stopped in front of a canvas that I had entitled “Winter of Listening” after David Whyte’s beautiful poem. The gentleman said, “I can see a jazz musician in this!” I walked over to him and started to explain what had inspired the work—the feelings invoked by a quiet scene of a winter forest—but he said, “No. I am a jazz musician. I see someone playing a saxophone in this painting.”
Once again, I was humbled by the lesson of the Jeweled Mirror—that our art has a message to offer that may be perceived individually by the person who is seeing what they need to see. This creative feedback is invaluable if we are to allow the work itself to speak to the viewer.
Have you had the experience of the Jeweled Mirror—where someone sees something different in your art than you had intended? If so, what was that like for you?