Everyone is familiar with the image of the Buddha sitting in meditation. It is an icon which takes on the aesthetic of the culture which gave rise to it: from India to Tibet; from Japan to Southeast Asia. Most recently, we can see the influence of the Dharma in the art of the west.
The earliest Dharma images were of a wheel, an empty chair, a lotus. Later, images of the Buddha portrayed him most commonly as sitting in meditation. In Japan the dharma was inherent to the design of the tea house and in the practice of inkbrush painting. By the mid 20th century, the growing Western interest in the spirituality of the East began to influence American artists for whom pop art and abstract expressionism became a means of displaying both their understanding and practice of the dharma.
Joan DePaoli is an artist, art historian, author and lecturer, and is also a curator who, since 1970, has presented exhibitions of Buddhist art in both Thailand and the United States. The day was be devoted to reviewing how visual art has been used both to commemorate the Dharma and to facilitate its practice since the time of the Buddha. There was special attention given to the Dharma's substantial influence in contemporary modern art. In describing his own practice, 20th century artist Philip Guston said: "When you go into your studio to work, everyone is there, your friends, parents, teachers, then one by one they all leave. And when you're lucky, you do!"