New paintings by Caris Reid and Amanda Valdez. Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman’s seminal text “Mandala: The Architect of Enlightenment” provided an expansive foundation in which both artists approached the Mandala form and history. Mandala is a sanskrit word that means “center” or “essence.” Resonating with the larger implications of what a mandala can be, Thurman ruminates that any circular structure can exist as a mandala; the sun and moon, a circle of friends, the breast or womb, or drop of blood or semen.

Traditionally a mandala can be an imitation of sacred architecture and yet simultaneously Thurman’s notion that any person can be a mandala then implies that every aspect of us is valid within our own mandala universes, and brings into focus the relationship between the microcosm and macrocosm. “In a conventional sense, then, every being is a mandala, rather than just a point of awareness. We are our environment as much as we are the entity in the environment.”

Reid and Valdez studied the text of Thurman together before approaching the work made for “Diamond Seat,” opening up their existing painting practices to a specific visual history, creating an intentionality to influence. The title of the show is taken from a passage in Thurman’s text, referring to the sacred space under the enlightenment tree in Bodhgaya that is impenetrable by any spiritual and physical entity. Valdez positions her body as that home and universe. Through her drawing practice she accesses the embodied shapes stored and felt through her body thus creating bizarre personal forms that she then engineers with fabric, embroidery, paint, and canvas. The forms reference a voided space, a hallowing, a sun, a home, the body, and a range of attitudes. They are times deviant, menacing, and playful while several seek to be a place of home or rest while still others shoot energy out through color and form.

Reid’s ongoing interest between the intersection of the mundane and spiritual has led to a fascination with meditative practices that evoke, or claim to evoke, higher states of consciousness and healing, specifically hypnosis, and reiki. The choreography of both practices being of as much interest to Reid as the outcome. Working with Psychotherapist Andrea K. Baum M.E.D, Reid co-designed an audio meditation that she listened to before creating the paintings in “Diamond Seat”, the audio laced with words inspired by the High Priestess card in tarot and borrowing phrases used in hypnosis. Incorporating the concentric geometric designs traditionally used in mandalas with her figurative work, Reid focused on the head and hand of the figure, using symmetry and repetition to create a rhythmic and hypnotic visual field. The repetition extends throughout the paintings, many containing shared images, such as the sun at center, the crow, and the small white circle. Hands in Reid’s paintings are often engaged in dramatic postures in the vocabulary of dance, and reiki. The paintings thematically explore spiritual spaces, and can also be used in meditative practice and self hypnosis by the viewer, by keeping their gaze locked at the center. By incorporating this element, the artist extends an invitation for the viewer to mimic the meditative nature in which the painting was created, connecting the start of the process with the end result, adding an additional circular motion within the work.