Virginia Peck

Faces of the Buddha

In meditation one morning, I felt “called” to combine my love of painting faces with my spiritual practice of yoga, meditation, and exploring spiritual literature. I have always loved to paint faces, so being struck with the idea to paint the face of Buddha was a perfect melding of my spiritual practices with my art. The Buddha has been an endless well of creativity and inspiration.

I am inspired by the beautifully worn materials of the construction on ancient Buddha statues. Whether they are made in stone, bronze, ceramic or wood, the weathering of the statues hints at the life cycle of decay and rebirth, impermanence and change, which the Buddha taught we need to acknowledge and accept. Because everything is in flux—from the celestial bodies speeding through space down to the frenetic motion of atomic particles—movement is essential to my paintings.

The colors that I use are always my own, inspired by the colorful, gestural, under-painting, which is how I begin each painting. I build the painting by layering textured, complementary colors on top of the underpainting, creating more movement as complementary colors set up a vibration in relation to each other.

Beginning this way means every painting is unique and can’t be copied. Rather than recreate a dead, lifeless statue, I seek to depict the Buddha’s energy and spirit, reflecting how the spirit of his teachings are alive today. These paintings, with their paradoxical, serene image of the enlightened Buddha and their excited surfaces of color and movement, seem to speak to the idea that beneath the chaotic pace of our modern lives there exists the possibility for inner peace and transcendence.

Whether Buddhist or not, viewers have said that they respond to the timeless and iconic quality of these images. The more technological, fast-paced, and brutal the world becomes, the more people tend to gravitate to the opposite—the eternal, the serene, and the compassionate, all qualities that the Buddha image embodies. §

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Virginia Peck attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, MA. She was a freelance illustrator for 12 years, and in 1997, she returned to fine art painting. Virginia was represented by Newbury Fine Arts in Boston, had a six-month show in Harvard University’s Andover Chapel, and was chosen to be featured in the book 100 Artists of New England. She is now living in Mexico. More at virginiapeck.com.