How simple and yet, not always easy to practice, is the Zen Buddhist meaning of the word "shoshin" or "beginner's mind." It refers to the idea of studying a subject from a place of openness and eagerness with no preconceived agenda, like a beginner, without any expectation of outcomes. As I reflect on this word, I realize that more and more, my everyday is the practice of shoshin.
Ever since I began to intentionally dedicate myself to my art practice, shoshin is present. I go about my art from a perspective of a child playing with a new toy. The child doesn't always know how the toy even works, but she starts to unfold it, experiment with it, throw it, break it, talk with it, share it, put it back together etc., actions I've encountered and learned from every time I show up for my art practice. Any act, whether it is washing the dishes, organizing your closet, fixing a tire, can be done from a beginner's mind. This mindset has revealed a wealth of subtle joy and wonder in the everydayness of life.
The other day, for example, I looked at my usual 19 x 25 piece of shizen paper and thought, I'd love to work on a round piece. It is difficult to find round pieces of shizen paper for pastels, so I picked up a blade and cut out a round piece from the rectangular one I had facing me. I had never worked on a round format before and had no expectation as to what I was going to do with it. What evolved out of this experiment is simply, a whole new world. It's like thinking the world is flat and now seeing it as round. All it took was seeing through, and acting from, a beginner's mind.
Out of my first round piece, an entire series has emerged. This new, ongoing series is called "From isla to island" and refers to the circularity of time-space, the many horizons lived from my birthplace of Cuba to my current place in Shelter Island, New York. The time spent looking at horizons, thinking of my native country with nostalgic longing, unable to return. Yet, everyday we return to ourselves, we return to the land right in front and under us, we return to the sunset and the sunrise, and it is in this cyclical, circular life cycle, where we find our home.
Each of these horizons is a window, reflective of my inner and outer world. Each, a captured memory of a view rich in feeling and thought. For those who have left their homeland and are unable to return, it is a reminder of the time spent thinking of what it would be like to return. How romanticized nostalgia becomes fantasy. The place left behind, is not the place that currently exists. Everything has changed, including the person thinking the memory. In time, this longing transforms into presence, an acknowledgement of the current place of residence. For me, it is Shelter Island, New York. The windows in time have opened to a new state of being, one of mindful gratitude.
In short, From isla to island is a series of windows which intends to honor the journey from longing to acceptance, from nostalgia to being, from memory to the present moment. It reinforces the idea that home is land, the ground we stand on.
Ana Martinez Orizondo is a Cuban pastel artist, writer and culture creative living in Shelter Island, NY. Her work explores themes of ecology and spirituality as well as identity and culture through landscape, nature and portraiture. She is a fascinated by mystical liminal states of in-betweenness, portals to otherness, and amorphous forms. The textural play between soft and hard pastels on smooth or ragged, Indian paper adds to the push and pull of my creative process, and its alchemical power.
Ana Martinez Orizondo
Artist and culture creative.