It was 2018, and I had begun a remodel project to create a new painting studio complete with display galleries. It was then that I sensed that I, too must change my way of painting.
In 2019, as I started to settle into my new environment, I decided to cherry pick my favorite books from my library to populate my new painting room. In choosing the affirmed heroes of my pantheon, I came across an overlooked but important catalogue from 2013 at LACMA entitled Ming Masterpieces from the Shanghai Museum. As I browsed its pages, I realized it seemed out of place with my other selections and yet, it spoke to me, quietly and deeply. These Chinese masterpieces from the Ming and Tang dynasties, especially the Daoist Immortals and specifically The Green Goat Immortal pierced my very soul. It was immediate and visceral- but why?
I was to come to learn of the Eight Immortals and their abilities to transfer power to tools that saved lives and destroyed evil and that they are considered signs of prosperity and longevity, popular themes in ancient and medieval art. But there was more, yet to be revealed to me. I was fascinated with a class of beings that are neither deities nor mere mortals. They are elevated humans, they are Immortals and though I was intrigued with their binary mandate of creation and protection, I was drawn to their fragilities and vulnerabilities, to their humanness.
The Immortals are the subject of many forms of creative expression including martial arts, in literature, in paintings and sculptures as well as dedicated shrines in China, Taiwan and beyond. Many Western comic books, films and graphic novels gather direct inspiration from Chinese Immortals and have transformed them into super heroes of mythic proportion.
What I found was a new center, a new home to locate my humanity, a place of extraordinary optimism and the power to memorialize the past and celebrate the present, both personally and culturally. It is a place of magic, redemption and rebirth where I get to paint the Immortals of my human imagination.