This is a fundamental question we all should ask ourselves ... frequently.
I could say I'm an artist, photographer and filmmaker with over 30 years of exhibitions under my belt and over 100 International Awards.
I could say I'm a Zen student struggling for over 20 years to go beyond my thoughts, stories and ideas and see life as it truly is.
I could say I'm Zen artist who's been working all his life toward the freedom represented in these paintings.
In fact, I could make a very long list describing who I think I am, who others think I am, and who I want you to think I am.
I could do that ... but none of it would be true.
That's not who I really am. That's not my True Face.
It's not that I'm not grateful for the opportunities life has given me. I am. But the labels of artist, Buddhist and so many more are hollow.
They're all masks. They're personas I've been creating since I took my first breath. Over the years they've become solid and real to me. But they're not real.
This is what we humans do. We call it ego.
But ego didn't paint these paintings. What painted these paintings is beyond descriptions, ideas, stories and concepts.
To Sign or Not To Sign
Signing these paintings put me in a bit of a quandary. I debated for days about whether to sign them. It just seemed wrong. False. I felt like an imposter ... a thief.
Who would be signing them? This ego-self I'd been clinging to all my life had very little to do with their creation. In fact, it was freedom from the ego-self that allowed them to emerge. So why should the ego sign them?
But then I realized signing the paintings created a balance of sorts. The signature represents the relative world, the world of descriptions, of artists and bankers, of ideas and memories, of accomplishments and failures. The paintings represent a world beyond description ... a brief glimpse into the Ultimate.
So after they're signed and the Dharma seal affixed, they represent both sides of life: the relative and the Absolute.
Balance. It seems right.
The Dharma Seal
The red seal you see on the bottom corner of all the paintings are the Chinese characters for True Virtue. This is the Dharma name given to me by my Buddhist teacher the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. The full Dharma name is True Sangha Virtue. The seal, also known as a chop, is commonly used in Buddhist paintings.
The illegible scrawl beneath the seal is the signature of my common western name: Peter Cutler.
Ego, ego, ego. As long as we have words, we have ego. The paintings don't need words. They speak for themselves ... far more eloquently and truthfully than I ever could.
Let go. Experience. Enjoy. Be.