Deng Mng-Dao, The living

Anselm Kiefer has been heralded for his examination of postwar Germany. Manga (Japanese comics) have made museum appearances. Gerhard Richter questions the meaning and appearances of photographs. Everywhere, “external” concerns have come back into art, where we once sought the purest art free from extraneous motivations. It’s clear we don’t currently have “art for art’s sake” in our culture. We allow art with all sorts of motivations. It would make sense, then, that there could be spiritual art.

There is a problem here, though. We feel ambivalent about spirituality, and therefore even more ambivalent about spiritual art. There are a number of reasons for this. We seem to accept art that is subversive, irreverent, witty, or outrageous. We want our art to be independent, and we avoid art that is part of the established society. For example, we don’t esteem art that is in the service of the government as highly as art that is independent. We don’t celebrate official portraits, for example, as high art. Likewise, civic commissions rarely take on the same gloss as high art celebrated in museums and the media. Even when the artist is well known, the subjugation to the bureaucratic process can become demeaning.

Perhaps Christo, with his enormous projects that require years of negotiation with government agencies for the sake of a piece of art that is quite temporary, is one of the few artists who has been able to rise above the problems of civic art. With all this ambivalence about art and its role in society as well as how we sequester most art in museums, it's not surprising that we don't consider spiritual art.

The Life of Making

The only life I know is a life of making. I grew up in a potter’s studio. I am an artist, graphic designer, and writer. Creativity is my work.

What does that feel like? It feels like being a spirit medium or oracle. I’m not trying to claim extraordinary significance or authority. I’m only saying that answers come to me when I’m challenged. When that happens, as it does many times a day, it’s thrilling. I’ve come to value that connection as being revelatory and true.

But to be honest, those answers don’t always lead to worldly success or agreement from others. Not every person likes my art or my writing. I frequently have to revise designs for clients. I can’t even be sure that my Read more