Lama Anagarika Govinda says that “if we look at a landscape and imagine that what we see exists as an independent reality outside ourselves, we are the victims of an illusion. If, however, we see the same landscape represented in the work of a great artist, then—in spite of the fact that the painting creates the visual illusion of a landscape—we experience an aspect of reality, because we are conscious of the illusion and accept it as an expression of a real experience….The moment we recognize an illusion as illusion, it ceases to be illusion and becomes an expression or aspect of reality and experience.”

But what happens if the work of art is not an illusion, but is a life that is being lived? Is it still art? Or has it then become a matter of “right livelihood?” As Nancy Wilson Ross describes it, “if a job help us in our search for an understanding both of ourselves and of the world around us, then it is, for us, samma ajiva (right livelihood)—no matter how futile and crazy it may seem to our friends and neighbors.” This may very well describe what art does for its maker—at least in part, and for some makers.

Marcia Tucker
White Paper II