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Zen Art: Origins in Abstract Expressionism
and Art Therapy

by Joanne Ehrich

Zen Art: Origins in Abstract Expressionism and Art Therapy

by Joanne Ehrich

First edition; Softbound; 145 pages, 8' x '10; (20cm x 28cm) August 08, 2011; ISBN-10: 1441409572 ; ISBN-13: 978-1441409577; Category: Art / History / Modern.

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Zen Art explores the connections between abstract expressionistic modern art, Zen-art, philosophy, and poetry and ways in which Zen relates to the modern field of expressive art therapy. Showcased are monoprints, monotypes and intaglio etchings by the author. Illustrated are the laws of sacred geometry, color, and contrast to create meaningful, nonfigurative compositions.

The process of refining visual building blocks in abstract expressionism mimics the process of attaining enlightenment according to Tao teachings in which judgment needs to be suspended and any thought is to be questioned. While a representational image imitates a slice of life that has been frozen in time, abstract artmaking mimics the path of enlightenment taken by an aspirant from a process point of view.

Art imitates life as the artist needs to first explore and discover the unique talent. After the emergence of a personal voice, transformation takes place. Epiphanies and accidental mistakes work synergistically with new explorations that lead to new discoveries and synchronicities. An individual set of visual tools can be likened to musical instruments that play an infinite amount of tunes consisting of space, shapes, textures, gestures, color fields, and movements coalescing in an interplay between light and dark to express the artist's emotions, struggles, discoveries, and aspirations. The resulting images become a doorway to the soul, and viewers bring their own associations to bear as these visual symphonies unfold.

Images are accompanied by short Zen proverbs with messages of clarity, realization, lightness, bliss, and sense of connection. Among the famous authors are Rumi, Krishnamurti, Ram Dass, Buddha, Bodhidharma, Paramahansa Yogananda, Ramana Maharishi, Swami Vivekananda, Kahlil Gibran, Lao-tsu, Osho,Tessho, Lin Yutang, Basho, and others.

Nancy Margulies, Psychologist and Mindscapes Creator: "As an art therapist and lifelong artist I was delighted to gain new insight into the creative process. Zen Art: Origins in Abstract Expressionism and Art Therapy helped me understand and then SEE the relationship between self-understanding and the ebb-and-flow of image creation.

Through a masterful blend of powerful abstract expressionist art images and Zen wisdoms, introduced beautifully with commentary, Joanne Ehrich offers her unique understanding of the way in which art therapy provides a portal to self-actualization.

Blending neuroscience, Jungian insight and a perfect pairing of abstract art and Zen philosophy, she paves the way for readers to explore their own inner realms through the process of creating art and ways in which anyone can tap their inner artistic capacities. After reading the superb intro, I found greater meaning in both the images and quotes that follow. The blending of evocative images juxtaposed against the simplicity of Zen quotations makes the book one you will want to return to again and again. The book will inspire any reader--whether artist, Zen practitioner or someone new to both."

Manual Ortega, ABD MA Psychology, f. Music Teacher: "The how and why expressive arts therapy works is brilliantly, succinctly and in an easily absorbed manner presented here. Zen Art: Origins in Abstract Expressionism and Art Therapy lays out a clear expression of an understanding of mind and brain that bridges the arc begun with the writings of Carl Jung (prior to advent of MRIs), extended through the work of Antonio Demasio's The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness..., to our present understanding of our brain's plasticity."

Sujesh Sundaram, Food Artist: "Zen Art: Origins in Abstract Expressionism and Art Therapy is a wonderful cocktail of abstract art and philosophy that incorporates words from enlightened people from various Asian cultures. The background colors are uplifting and make the reading a very pleasant process. I personally resonated with chapter on colors. Being a cake decorator, I think colors are a big part of anyone's creative expression and so am quite aware of how meaningful they are in terms of evoking different kinds of emotions and trait associations. Apart from the science behind colors I like the fact that colors make anyone's creative imagination come alive. I like this form of art is because it lets us use our imagination and express things the way we see them. With a wonderful organization of the chapters, I am sure the book will bring joy to any reader that enjoys abstract art and philosophy."


Joanne Ehrich attended photography trade school and holds a University degree in art with emphasis on printmaking. She created numerous etchings, lithographs, and monotype prints, as well as paintings of animals and landscapes, and was one among a hundred artists selected for "Sharkbyte Art," a public shark sculpture project on display in the streets of San Jose, California in 2001. The project was covered in the coffee table book American Art Parades. The experience of being part of a larger-than-life project culminating in a charity auction spurned a desire to organize a similar event of her own. Her talents took a different turn in 2004 when she founded Koala Jo Publishing, which is aimed at helping with wildlife preservation.

There she wrote, designed, and published eleven books centered around one of the world's most beloved animals—the koala. She also designed and produced themed merchandise for her publishing company. For her first book, Koalas: Moving Portraits of Serenity, she recruited 120 photographers from 24 countries, resulting in a masterpiece that garnered over fifty five-star reviews and was named "...the best collection of koala images" by the American Library Association. This venture into publishing was not solely an artistic outlet; sales of another Koala Jo title, as well as koala-themed merchandise, contribute to the Australian Wildlife Hospital for the care of koalas and other Australian animals.