Born in Brooklyn, and raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Gwendalin Aranya has been an artist her entire life. She began at a young age by sitting behind her mother drawing as her mother painted.
At 16, Ms. Aranya attended Bard College at Simon’s Rock where she illustrated a field guide to medicinal plants. It was at Rutgers University in New Jersey two years later that she first picked up a paintbrush and learned to paint. Delighted with painting, she quit school to become a painter. In 1989, Ms. Aranya was one of the founding members of the gallery Vox Populi in Philadelphia. After a year she returned to Temple University to complete her bachelor’s degree in Linguistics. While she continued to paint, exhibit, and sell, she also continued her education. After earning an MS degree in Mathematics in 1992, she worked toward a Ph.D. in Art Theory and Practice and Computer Science at the University of Western Australia. She ultimately completed an MFA in Painting at Howard University in 2005.
In her early twenties, Ms. Aranya discovered Zen Buddhism and at once knew that her approach to art was Zen. She had been meditating since the age of thirteen. Since the discovery of Zen, she has considered herself a Zen artist. Simply put, Zen art is created as a meditation in which the artist and subject are one. It is not planned, and it does not come from a place of thinking, but rather a place of being. There is no subject and no object.
A few years after making these discoveries of Zen and Zen art, Ms. Aranya became an ordained Zen priest. She recently relocated to Southwest Florida, where she dedicates her time to sharing Zen through art.
I am a Zen artist specializing in oil paintings and photography with subjects primarily in nature and often containing Buddhist symbolism. I have traveled extensively and have many photos and paintings from around this country and others.
My process is to take photos of an object and paint those photos in the manner of Zen. This results in a highly stylized version of the photo. A fair expression of the Zen painting process is that the subject and object become one. Each painting is also an expression of the artist in the subject. There is an extra vibrant quality to my work where I exaggerate contrast and create my relationships rather than copying what’s there. I do not copy, trace, or measure anything. I am not on the outside looking in, but I am every color in relationship to every other color. My process is completely intuitive, natural, and spontaneous which results in a more painterly rendering of the image.
My subject matter tends to be Buddhist, though, in good Zen fashion, there are no rules! That said, you will find thematic trends in my art. I have painted a lot of images from nature, and with Buddhist themes, such as the water lilies I have focused on now for more than fifteen years! Lotuses and water lilies are important Buddhist symbols of enlightenment. The symbolism is simply that of beauty growing out of mud just as enlightenment grows out of the mud of this thing we call life.
Each painting is a meditation: the process of painting is a meditation, and the viewing is also a meditation. Please enjoy and Rest in JOY!