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Ruth Denison, Buddhist and Meditation Pioneer

Ruth Denison, Buddhist and Meditation Pioneer

Local Artist Participating in Project About Meditation Pioneer

Local artist Attasalina Dews is participating in an important project, “The Silent Dance of Life,” about the pioneering life of Ruth Denison, who just passed away this year at the age of 93. Dews and other directors are seeking crowdsourced funding.

Please enjoy the trailer and support the project at :

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ruth-denison-the-silent-dance-of-life

or http://bit.ly/15BOUYZ

Crowd funding ends March 23rd

 

SHAPING THE FACE OF BUDDHISM IN THE WEST 

Ruth Denison, Women and the Mindfulness Revolution 

In 1976, Ruth Denison took a trip to the high desert in Southern California. While camping near Pioneer Town, she rescued a family of baby opossums’ who were clinging to their mother who had ceased living. Compassionate to all creatures in suffering, Ruth had a very grounded view of right action and right thought. She did not stand for “bullshit” or sit with it for that matter. She was riding the waves of giants and she wanted for everyone to gain the capacity to see from this point of view.

That trip sowed the fateful seed that grew to become the Vipassana Meditation Retreat known as Dhamma Dena in Joshua Tree, Ca. Ruth Denison was among the very first western women authorized by an Asian meditation master to teach. Her mentor, U Ba Khin, had a strong inclination to bring the practice of Vipassana to the Western community. Spreading a discipline of mindfulness grounded in practicing awareness of one’s breath, body and thought as a means to access the ability to tranquilly observe one’s experience.

Ruth’s meditation teaches many things, but it particular, she taught people to understand or at least to acknowledge what they were experiencing within themselves. Rather than always looking away as our eyes are prone to do, Mindfulness is a practice of also turning the view inward. Learning to see inside as easily as we believe we see the outside.

Ruth Denison was quite a groundbreaker for women and was the first Buddhist teacher to create women’s meditation retreats back in 1980. She was working very successfully with traumatized people thirty years before trauma therapy became popularized. Forty years ago, when meditation was only sitting and walking, Ruth was combining movement, dance, music and mindful eating with the traditional model of mindfulness practice. Ruth´s innovations were not widely accepted or understood at the time, but have since become adopted by the vast majority of western Buddhist retreat centers.

Born in Germany in 1922, then Ruth Schäfer, came of age during World War II and experienced the horrors of the war first hand. In 1957, she immigrated to the United States and found herself in Los Angeles, California in the midst what was fast becoming the flower power movement. Together with her husband Henry Denison who was of the Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism, Ruth associated with many artists, intellectuals and Buddhist teachers who were looking for new forms of expression – a “new consciousness”.

 

They frequently hosted luminaries in their home in the Hollywood hills, including Aldous and Laura Huxley, Alan Watts, Charlotte Selver, Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Lama Govinda and Anaiis Nin among many others. After years of practicing meditation and traveling around the world to meet masters first hand, in 1971 Ruth was authorized by her teacher Burmese master U Ba Khin becoming one of the first female Buddhist teachers in the Western world – now famous for her innovative and “feminine” approach.

“You are a pioneer of Buddhism in the West!” proclaimed celebrated meditation teacher and author, Jack Kornfield. Ruth Denison has always been a colorful yet humble character. Though highly acclaimed within the community of Buddhism, she was passionate about one thing only, the Dhamma. Her last words about her life were, “I am glad that I dedicated my life to the Dhamma. It is a good life and a good way to be, I am glad that I dedicated my life to helping people.”

Ruth Denison passed away just last month at the age of 93. “The Silent Dance of Life”, the first feature length documentary on Ruth Denison, is currently crowd-funding. During the past four years, director and producer Aleksandra Kumorek accompanied Ruth at her center in the Mojave desert, capturing more than 100 hours of unique footage. The completed project will yield a remarkable portrait of one the unique women teachers of our time as well as an online-archive with many hours of exclusive videos and materials including Ruth Denison´s formal and informal Dharma talks, ceremonies, rituals and guided meditations.

The project, if successful, will contribute an exceedingly meaningful body of knowledge and experience to the meditation community as well as to the greater scope of human kind and meaning in the twenty-first century.

Please enjoy the trailer and support the project at :

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ruth-denison-the-silent-dance-of-life

or http://bit.ly/15BOUYZ

Crowd funding ends March 23rd

Video embed code:

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By Demitri Corbin

“I like my head empty, man!  I like my belly full and my head empty!  So, I would write these words down but I never thought they were ART,” – Gary Lang
 
Gary Lang is a very busy man.  His exhibition, “Circles/Words” on display at Ace Gallery Beverly Hills is making him very popular and hard to pin down.  But with word that the exhibit has been extended he made special time for me to visit his art studio inside his home.  We sat poolside and drank our Starbucks coffee as we talked.DC: The show is extended…GL:  Yes.DC:   …until…GL:  The show is extended  ‘til the 27th of this month, May.  Well, we got so much press, they just…because of the press, because of the Los Angeles Times.  LA Times’ Dave Pagel described the show as the most beautiful place in all of Los Angeles.   That’s major.  I mean the attendance spiked.  Every day it spiked, three days in a row.

DC:  Wonderful.

GL:  That’s huge.   These are not people who are excessively or necessarily complimentary.

DC:  Well, I’m going to tell you what my friend Mona said.

GL:  She was lovely.

DC:  And I sent you an email of all the pictures so you can take a look at them…. what she said was, “the circles give off a vibration that trigger certain emotions.” That’s the first thing you had said to me years ago when you were telling me about your paintings.

GL:  That’s true.  She keyed right in.

DC:  She is empathic.

GL:  What does that mean?

DC:  She empathizes.  She feels things very strongly.

GL:   She was beautiful.  There was one picture (holding out his hands wide) that said it all.  I mean, that’s a good photograph.

DC:  So she went around and had a selfie-shoot with each piece throughout the gallery.  We have about 25 pictures.  It was fun going there and seeing a couple of other patrons to turn and see they big wheel but when you turn and see someone standing in front of it you see the perspective and it really is mind blowing .  You see the scale it and get close and see the detail of the brush strokes-

GL: And the heart, the love.

DC:  It really is cool.

GL  I was so touched to see you there.  It meant a lot to me.  I want to send you the L.A. Times.

DC:  I’ll look it up.  I want to see the studio

GL:  We can see the studio, it’s kind of a mess.  It’s kind of special.  I’ve been busy.  I’ve got a show in New York, a show in LA, a little project here, I’ve got a talk in Camarillo on Friday, and I leave for Colorado on Wednesday.

DC:  So, is this a high time?

GL:  Always a high time

DC:  It’s a beautiful gallery.  I want to talk particularly the word pictures.

GL:  Did you get into them?

DC:  We didn’t take pictures there.

GL: I’ll send you a bunch.

DC:  Two or three of them really appealed to me, one in particular.  You know how you look at a piece and something say, “that’s mine.”

GL:  With the words you mean?

DC:  Yes.

GL:  So, I did this word piece at this place called The Blackboard Gallery.  I wanted to transform the entire space into a poem, so I did this word piece all across the gallery, write across the wall. I invited a group of artists that I did not know previously, and gave each one a letter, a color, and a brush.  I’ll give a talk this Friday night, it’s called CI Arts/Studio Arts Channel Island.

DC:  So, do you get time to work with other people?

GL:  I do get time.  I make time.  I love people and you know, I don’t want to be one of those people who gets…uh…you know…I’m already isolated from the world living here.  And I’m with a gallery that is exclusive.  You can’t get my work anywhere else in the world other than from this place, Ace Gallery.  And everybody knows that.

He stops mid-sentence and speaks to his wife and fellow artist, Ruth Pastine, as she walks, two-fisted with coffee, towards the art studio.

GL:  Do you remember young and handsome Demitri?

DC:  Young and handsome?!  That’s great!

RP:  of course I do.  How are you, Demitri?

DC:  I’m good Ruth, how are you?

RP:  Good to see you!

DC:  Good to see you, too!

She disappears into her part of the studio.

GL:  Yeah, the words, you know, it’s not about me.  These are words-this is the stuff of people…Chance (his son) said to me when he was a tiny kid, he said, “I think all the people in the world are one family.”  And I said, “Shit kid, you got it.”

Our talk shifts to catching up on personal news, then good news and bad news and how it affects his work.

GL:  You know, I was working on this piece and I was listening to National Public Radio, NPR everyday with my mood – you know, I’m like a giant mood ring, you know, changes colors.  And I was listening to National Public Radio when Bush was looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction.  And my pallete was getting darker and darker and I realized if I didn’t turn that off (NPR) I’d have an eleven-foot black dot.  Seriously, I was taking on that much other worldly poison.

DC:  That brings me to when we first met and you told me how you came to Ojai.  You can tell me that story again.

GL:  I don’t even remember how I got here.  It just happened.  I think I had outlived my appetite for the tenor of ambition in Manhattan.  I mean I didn’t care anymore.  Seven cocktail parties a week for three decades.  And if you don’t outgrow that you start looking like a (px%#!)

DC:  (laughing) I don’t think I can write that.

GL:  You know, it’s just unappetizing, undignified.  I think at some point you have to stand outside yourself, your own ambitions and like Shakespeare says, “To be or not to be.”  And once you learn that, you can do it anywhere and I wanted to do it in a quiet place, calm place, because I had a little boy and a little girl on her way, so I wanted to get out of that kind the gravity of the market place and into a calm place of grandeur. This is good…this place is good.  Ojai is home.

GL:  I’ve planted a lot of trees since I’ve been here.  I built the studio.  I care dearly for everyone I’ve ever met here.  That’s all real, that’s a measure of success in itself.  When you feel love and concern for your community that’s a victory.  It’s not an egoistic victory, it’s a humanitarian victory, to care for  your neighbors.  You take on a maturity as you get older.  You go through a few wars and you start to see things a little differently.  You start to consider others more (laughs) out grow that narcissism of the city.

We chat on about the struggles of working as artists in New York and L.A.

GL:  One thing I love about being a painter is that you don’t need a budget and you don’t need a cast, or whatever it takes to get a movie done, it’s complex, bankers approval, etc., etc.  I can just take my brush, walk into my studio and start massaging pigments on surfaces and I’m in heaven.  I’m like a caveman, you know, I love it, though.  I walk across my own property, get up there … you know, I worry, I worry because it’s uncertain being an artist.  You don’t know from month to month whether you’re going to be living in Ojai or a trailer park in Indio!

DC:  Right!

GL:  That’s what I’m dealing with, that’s why my hair gets gray and thin.  And then there’s that.  I don’t want to talk about that.

DC:  You look great!

GL:  Ask Ruth!  She’s the whole barometer for this.  That’s the savage truth.  “You look terrible!”  Yeah, but Demitri says …”

We have a good laugh.

DC:  Do you ever collaborate on pieces?

GL:  Well, we don’t but we talk about absolutely everything, I mean I don’t have a better voice than Ruth, I mean, she’s my muse.  And it goes both ways.   Actually, here’s an interesting story when I first met Ruth I hired her to be my assistant.  She reminded me of my dad.  There was no bullshit, no entertainment, you could bank on it.  You knew what you were getting. No flirtation, just this is what it is.  So we’re working on this painting in Boca Raton, Florida in a gallery and they were making this movie.  We were painting a thirteen-foot circle on the wall of this gallery.  And we were just getting together, getting to know each other, we dug each and I got the movie afterwards.  I watched this movie, now this is two people doing a project, very complex project on the wall.  We never even spoke.  We were so in sync. it was like we’re moving like a German engineered car, everything’s perfect, seamless, no conversation.  So that was interesting for me to see.  We’re pretty good partners that way.  There is a downside to every partnership, there’s no way around it.  ‘Cause I think every person is two people, anyways.  So now you got four people dissecting everything.

DC:  That’s cool.  What else can we talk about?

GL:   The words.  Let me tell you about the words.  I started writing words in – I guess everybody’s going to know my age now – in the mid-seventies cause they’d get in my head.  And I’d, ‘shit, I don’t want those words in my head.’  So, I remember I had two friends in Spain, they said, “We remember you in the seventies, you’d get off the bus and you’d have all these words written all over your arms.”  Because I thought they were important.  Somehow I knew two things; I wanted them out of my head, I didn’t want them in my head.  I got enough – I like to keep my head empty-

DC:  Hmm, empty head?

GL:  Yeah!  That’s the way I like it!

We guffaw!

GL:  I like my head empty, man!  I like my belly full and my head empty!  So, I would write these words down but I never thought they were ART.  I just thought they were sort of, you know, therapy or some sort of mental compulsion, you know, but you ever see the movie, “Simple Minds,” with Russell Crowe?  I looked like that, you know that?  Walkin’ around like that in public.  But I thought the words were important and I thought that collecting words, just like you collect butterflies, money or whatever people collect – art – I just wanted to collect words I just – I like to look at the words and think about them and arrange them in sentences, cause they provide my mind a place to go.  It’s very interesting. Because I don’t paint images, I paint icons, what I consider to be sacred icons, or hypnotic icons.

DC:  That reminds me.  I posted a few of the pictures on Facebook and the responses , you know, you’re hearing from people you haven’t seen in twenty years and the responses, ‘dizzying,’ ‘hypnotic,’ people were really complimentary.

GL:  And they’re looking at an image ‘this big’ and you came in with Mona and you’re standing in front of a 13’ circle with your arms raised –

DC:  People were like, wow!  So, lots of compliments.

GL:  Well, thank you.  You know I’ll get, ‘Is he on drugs?’  I get that all the time.  And I’m used to it.

We laugh again.

GL:  But I’ve had people visit my studio, and they go and take one look and say, “Okay, I’m not goin’ there.”   That’s it.  They walk right out.

DC:  Really?

GL:  Yeah, because you gotta let go.  You gotta let go and you gotta take that ride and if you’re not confident, you’re not going for the ride.  Cause these things will really undo you.

DC:  It’s true!

GL:  People are afraid to jump.  But you gotta jump or you’re not living.  My dad taught me that.  I’d be worried and have lines in my forehead and he’d say, “Gary, jump.  You’ll land on your feet.  And I trusted him.  And I’ve been jumping ever since.  And I’ve landed on some rocks!  Hello! Yeah, this isn’t my…

DC:  First time around the rodeo?

GL:  Yeah, baby!

We laugh as Gary leads me to his art studio.

GL:  The studio is a mess because, as I told you, there are a lot of projects going on.

The studio actually is not a mess but very well organized with lots of projects going on.  I don’t bring people back here but because I adore you, we’re doing this.   This is my part of the studio.

DC:  Well, this is what I like; going into the artist’ mind.  This is where you do your thing.

He shows me marks across the top of the white walls.

GL:  Here, you see that big mark up there, you see what I used to do is literally pull the 13’ circle this way with my brush.  And eventually your shoulders go to hell, so now…

He shows me the 13’ circle canvas that spins on the wall like a giant lazy susan.

GL:  I devised this rotating mechanism.

DC:  Oh, my goodness!

We laugh.

GL: You want me to read you one.  I’m always full of words.  This one is about me just between you and I.  It says, “Filled with hell juice and the mermaids sing – sing, the poet competes with pornography. “  And that’s the truth.  You have your hell juice , you have your sirens, maddening sirens, and you come up with the truth.  Goddamn incredible.

DC:  You stay in here for hours and hours?

GL:  This is my domain, man.  This is my shelter from the storm.  This is where I live and, you know, the floor, it’s like a dance floor.  There are rubber pads underneath, cause I’m standing for hours a day.

And see, I have a mobile library here.

His library includes , Shakespeare, “The Joy of Life,” Marquis de Sade and Shakespeare’s “Poems and Sonnets.”  We move to the outside patio.

GL: …..this is a very special environment and I really love it.

DC:  Let’s see what you listen to.  Do you have a lot of jazz?

GL:  Yeah, actually I’ve got more jazz than anything else.  I don’t’ know what you’re going to see right now.

He opens one of three large file drawers filled with CDs.

GL:  What do you listen to?

DC:  I listen to jazz mostly, especially during creative times.

GL:  Yeah, I listen to jazz.  Jazz frees me, you see.  Lately though I find I only listen to all classical, almost exclusively, but I’ve got more jazz than anything.  You might like this guy, this guy is strange.  Antony and the Johnsons.  Never heard of him, huh?

DC:  No.

GL:  You know, he’s a transgender guy, so the singing is really…. You want to me to play one of his songs?  It ain’t jazz, it’s something else.

DC:  He looks like that girl in the hallway that no one wants to talk to.

GL:  He’s that guy but when he sings.

Gary puts on the CD and invites me to look around at the studio space; the paint, brushes, canvases, prints readied for shipping, and as I listen to the haunting music of Antony and the Johnsons, I feel a great appreciation for the artist and his muse and his creative space.

 

Gary Lang’s “Circles/Words” is on exhibition at Ace Gallery Beverly Hills.  Ace Gallery is located at 9430 Wilshire Blvd.  For more information visit www.acegallery.net.

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Whole Lotta’ Love On Display

KGartopen 185Whole Lotta Love – Love Potion #9 Art Exhibit at Gallery 525

By Demitri Corbin

Photo Credit: Mary M. Long

On Saturday evening, Feb. 8,  Gallery 525 hosted an artists’ reception for it latest exhibit, Love Potion #9.

The exhibit of small works measuring 9 X 9 inches boasts the work of 30 artists!  The artists took the Valentine-themed show to heart (truly no pun intended), producing vibrant and eclectic show highlighting artists from in and outside the Bubble.  The show’s curators are Gallery 525 owners Kelly Luscombe-Bea and Sooz Glazebrook.

The opening reception began at 5 and when I arrived after a great meal at Papa Lennon’s (they do such a great job!) a crowd was already gathering.   Within no time the crowd swelled and a spectacular event was underway.  I found Kelly and we stole away to the backstage area and had a quick chat.

DC:  I’ve been to Gallery 102 and Porch Gallery but I’ve not had a chance to get here before.  When did you open?

KLB:  2 years ago.  We started with a couple of artists and kept rolling.  There are a lot of deserving artists who are great but no one knows about them.  There are lot of Ojai artists that don’t feel comfortable in the art world here, so the purpose is to show the talent that Ojai has and give them exposure.  And we are selective …

DC:  We?

KLB:  Myself and Sooz Glazebrook.

DC:  Tell me about the beginning.

KLB:  The space opened in 2011 with different people who pulled out of the gallery 3 months in, so Sooz and I took over and began recognizing both emerging and established artists…we want to celebrate the fun and joy of creation, so Love Potion #9, the song inspired this show.  We wanted to do something fun for Valentine with the small works of 9X9 …

DC:  Give me an example of one of the emerging artists.

KLB:  Khalil Lennon, we found her working next door at Papa Lennon’s, she’s 21 or so.  She’s a wonderful new artist…we’ve did this same show one year ago.  Every year we have an open call for artists, everyone can submit.  This gives everyone in town a chance to submit once a year.

DC:  Give me some highlights in the show.

KLB:  Oh, there are so many … Carmen (Abelleira) always … Dianne Bennett, Bruce Samia – he’s up from Hollywood, and Nikki Sims, Ahde Lahti, Roberto Rodriguez … it’s about celebrating creativity, the genius in art. The gallery is also a music venue and small performance space.  It’s all about highlighting the talent that’s right amongst us.

The sound of applause alerted us to a performance starting onstage.

DC:  Thanks Kelly, I think we’d better get back to the party.

KLB:  Thank you, Demitri!

Love Potion #9, the 2nd Annual Small Works show features the work of over 30 artists, is on display at Gallery 525 through March 8.  Gallery 525 is located at 525 W.  El Roblar Ave., Ojai, CA.  For more information visitwww.gallery525.com