Artist at Work: The Lotus and the Chair
Suggest a new West Virginia-connected work
THE ARTIST: Thad Settle, Dunbar, W.Va.
THE WORK: An Enlightening Chair
THE BACKGROUND: “Some of my earliest and fondest memories are of sitting on the front porch of my grandparents farmhouse on Wolf Creek Road in Fayette County. I don’t have specific memories of events as much as I recall sensory impressions. The murmuring sound of conversation late in the evening, the smell of cigarette and pipe tobacco, a whip-poor-will’s call, the sparkle of fireflies – all of these paint a picture in my mind. This time was the late ’40s and early ’50s, so most rural Appalachian farms didn’t yet have TV – we didn’t until 1956 or 57. I feel extremely fortunate to carry those imprints all these many years later.
“The chair is a sculpture I made that directly evokes these impressions, although in such a roundabout way that why that is may not be obvious. I’ve taken up woodcarving the last few years and wanted to make something that spoke about the influence Buddhist meditation has had on my creative output.
“That evoked a connection with my early years. I’d found the lotus pond at Green Bottom Wildlife Management near Huntington about five or six years ago and have made it a habit to go there often to paint. I’d taken several photos of the water lillies or lotus that grow there. I made a few carvings of lotus pods that appear in the fall after the blossoms fall off the flower, one with a frog sitting on the pod.
“I decided I wanted to challenge myself by carving a lotus in bloom. One thing led to another and I ended up with this chair. The symbolism is all over the place as far a Buddhist imagery goes. On one level the chair can seen as a visualization of the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum.”
“Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech and mind into the pure exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha[…]” ~ H.H. Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
“The Mani Jewell can also be seen as a wish-fulfilling visualization of the mantra ‘Om Mani Padme Hum,’ the simplest translation of which is ‘Praise to the jewel in the lotus.'”