When I graduated high school in 1983, there was this sudden pressure to do something. One either had to get a job or go to school or something. I got a job at a grocery and thought for a while about what would be the best position in society for me.
Being 18, I wanted the "job" with the most freedom. My parents had a friend who was a struggling artist and he had this really open-minded perspective on life. So I chose to become an artist. My parents were not too happy with this decision but they knew I wasn’t going to change my mind that easily.
I started drawing everything I could. I eventually went to a college for art. I was as passionate about art as anyone had ever seen. I specialized in painting and sculpting. I had even carved totem poles for a motel in Taos, NM.
As I explored art, I was continually amazed at the artist’s calling for pushing limits of what art is. One of my artist role models is Joseph Beuys, a German performance artist who really broke new ground. He was an artist in the academy before WWII doing representational themes in paintings, drawings and sculptures. Then he was called to serve in Hitler’s army as an fighter pilot. He was shot down a few times. The last brought him closest to death. He was shot down and was found by a tribe of people who saved his life by putting him into a felt cocoon surrounded by fat. When the war was over he knew standard academy painting would never be able to externalize his past experiences. He began doing elaborate performances, which set his career off and changed the art world.
After 12 solid years in the art world, I had a profound experience during a martial arts class. We were asked to make 100 Japanese sword cuts with a wooden Katana called a Bokken. I can’t remember what number I was on but I got myself into a state. Then all of a sudden a black passageway opened up and I felt hyper-aware. That experience of an altered reality changed my perception of the world. Art itself seemed pale and utterly cheap from that moment on. I tried to paint that experience for the next few years with some feelings reminiscent of that first experience but it wasn’t until I started doing T’ai Chi and Qi Gong that I was able to get back to that place.
Once this new method of altering my consciousness began my art production slowed to a trickle. I found that Qi Gong and T’ai Chi could replace and surpass any internal feelings that my art was able to do.
My next step was to share that feeling with others. After becoming relatively proficient in some Tai Chi and Qi Gong forms, I felt comfortable enough to teach other people. But I seemed to keep bumping into some obstacles. Many people in society viewed these forms as either, stale and static or just for old people.
So my next challenge was how to change the way society viewed these activities. I went back to school and completed my bachelor's degree in psychology. Studying social psychology it becomes abundantly clear that people have many preconceived notions that are informed not from direct sensory experience but from socio-cultural norms they learn. Many people in society relegate art to a painting or a sculpture that is executed by “artists.”
T’ai Chi and Qi Gong are really not considered as anything more than an exercise for older adults who are in need of assistance. Even martial artists have been patronized by being Asian-philes who break boards and shout like cavemen. Our society has these narrow perceptions of what all these things are. Our whole society is compartmentalized so much that you would think nature is as well. Compartmentalization is a major flaw in our highly industrialized society. The problem is those of us in the West have to name everything, which seems harmless but limits the object once it is named.
Even fellow artists often ask if I still paint or make art. There is no possibility in their minds that the act of performing Tai Chi is the creation of art. Art to me has now become that amazing feeling when my body seems to open up and glide on the earth's crust weightless and painless and ready!