where my work comes from/what inspires me to make art:
the constant state of flux shifting from emptiness into form back into emptiness. the feel of pen to paper. zazen and zen. language. impermanence. family dysfunction. tea. haiku. taoism. gardens. shamanism. cursing. curses. cursive writing. writing as drawing. text as mark-making. feminism. oracles. the political. the poetic. seriousness. sadness. dreams. jazz. clarity. directness. strong opinions. research. dislike of sentimentality. cancer. migraines. childhood grievances. not suffering fools. death. dying. beauty. simplicity. elegance. sophistication. friendship. smart friends. windows. mirrors. doorways. the pacific ocean. point reyes national seashore. pens. more pens. ink. what it means to be alive, to live a human life. a wicked sense of humor. a belief in something beyond human understanding - call it god / the gods, the Universe, the Void, call it Tao, the generative tissue of the cosmos.
modern day mandalas:
I am compelled to create a contemporary, visual language depicting the subjects of impermanence, qi or breath-energy, absence and presence, the wisdom of Zen and of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s ancient text Tao te Ching.
Using line and grid, ink, water, pen, and paint, the goal of my art is to engender a quieting of the mind. Through prolonged viewing, internal and external chatter is quieted. Functioning as objects of contemplation, they remind us of that which we are, what we come from and will return to. Think of them as modern mandalas holding talismanic, meditative power – a form of practical magic helping to place us in harmony with the energies of the Cosmos.
things said about my art by others:
"A brief visit to Oakland recently yielded some interesting emerging work … Lisa Espenmiller’s new work at Chandra Cerrito Gallery references the artist’s meditative practice. The (chant) drawings appear almost as woven tapestries, but are in fact quotes from The Tao, written over and over in different directions."
-- ArtSource Consulting. ArtSource blog post re: "On the Line", April 7, 2015
"Lisa Espenmiller's paintings are visual haiku offered as objects of reflection, linked to her writing practice as well as the practice of meditation. Repetitive, horizontal, scribbled threads of color echo the process of handwritten text and appear to float upon color field 'pages'."
-- Claudia Tennyson. Aftermath exhibit essay, September 26, 2013
"The smooth and subtle undulations of line and color in Lisa Espenmiller's works provide a calmness and stillness that, according to the artist, is rooted in the meditative practices of Zen. Her work exists to serve as the viewer's refuge from the noise and ceaseless activity of our culture as well as the mind itself. Working with ink, water, paper and brush, Espenmiller will position herself before her surface and, once in a rooted meditative state, paint by intuition rather than with the eye and mind. Her ability to block the logical mind while creating her art is of key importance, as it prompts acceptance and trust in that which comes from each movement. Her work is greatly influenced by the practice of stillness, the flow of chi (life force), and a steady focus on the present moment at hand."
-- Patricia Watts. Transmissions exhibit essay, 2013
“Lisa Espenmiller draws horizontal ink lines, one after the other, until the entire surface of canvas or paper becomes a striped color field she relates to “chi” —the subtle energy that infuses existence, which can become evident through the process of meditation. Although on a formal level, her work has ties to the linear compositions and subtle hues of Agnes Martin’s paintings, Espenmiller’s art practice is less influenced by the work of other artists than it is an extension of both her writing practice (she is also a poet) and her Zen meditation practice. Her multi-disciplinary aim is to ‘encourage stillness and a focus on the moment at hand.’ She achieves this with her paintings and works on paper, which require the artist’s own sustained attentiveness while inspiring calm and contemplation in the viewer.”
-- Chandra Cerrito Contemporary. Cumulous exhibit essay, July 26, 2012
"Walking up to Lisa Espenmiller's drawings, the viewer might easily dismiss them as easy compositions of vertical or horizontal lines, reminiscent to the work of Agnes Martin. This would be doing them a disservice. These compositions are less rooted in art and are related to the artist’s Zen meditation practice. Viewing them for an extended period of time, I began to look into the color, relax and leave the crowds around me to their chatter. In this sense, the works are closer to those of John Zurier, in terms of the thought process that created them."
-- Greg Flood, Art Critic and Curator. Examiner.com, September 17, 2012