Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hunter Clarke's Surprising Buddha

Who is Hunter Clarke? Well, she's a fairly young artist whose work I just discovered, and also the painter of the above image.

This watercolor is from a series of paintings entitled "Bestiarius" that involve various animal heads attached to nude, mostly pregnant, female bodies.

The author of her circle ezine, a web journal exploring "the feminine experience in the world community," wrote the following about Clarke's series in 2008:

Clarke is comfortable with her ties to traditional aesthetics. And, like many symbolic representations, her work conveys universal themes while at the same time, are connected to her personal experiences. Her fascination with flight, for example, changed when she became pregnant and her attention seemed to take a natural turn toward more “grounded” subject matter as represented by the egg.

Her own experiences during pregnancy influenced the themes of “Bestiarius”, connected to changing responses and feelings that began to surface, and an awareness of more “Instinctive, primal” feelings as a pregnant woman: her sense of protection, of the relationships between nurturing and predator behavior, the strangeness of having a life growing inside. All of these feelings made their way into the series, as did that desire to continue representing women with a presence of strength.

Being a man, I'll never know these experiences quite so intimately. I have to rely on stories, poems, music, and paintings like this to get any real sense at all.

But what initially struck me about this image is that it's very Buddha-like. And yet, also not. Personally, I love when someone deliberately makes an effort to disturb the accepted, commonplace, or traditional in a way that doesn't destroy the disturbed, but certainly displaces it. I have no idea if Hunter Clarke has any interest in Buddhism, or had any thoughts at all about Buddha images when she painted this. But this entire series of paintings is certainly about disruption of commonplace images, which is why I felt all the more that this one was worth sharing with you all.

What do you think?

*Check out more of her work here.


Unknown said...

I like it. It evokes a lot of interesting paradoxical feelings in me: it's sort of disturbing but also feels kind of calming. It reminds me of nurturing but also of wildness and danger. Sort of a yin/yang Rorschak test quality - imagined sets of unified oppositions. Very cool.

Marguerite Manteau-Rao said...

Thanks Nathan.

As a mom, I can definitely relate to the lioness image. Definitely a part of my experience, and as such linked to all inclusive Buddha nature . . .

Hunter Clarke-Fields said...

Hi Nathan, thanks for posting my artwork! I'm pleased to discover your blog on an unrelated search, unfortunately, a year late. In fact, I am quite familiar with Buddhism - I practice Zen meditation and frequent a Sangha where I live. It was not directly on my mind when I created this piece. I was more interested in the bizarre and animalistic nature of pregnancy.

Please let me know if you have any other thoughts about my work, or would like to see some recent stuff.