Is That So?

 |  April 24, 2012

Is That So?
encaustic, thread, oil stick
12×12 inches

Several weeks ago I attended the open studio at the Cornelia Arts Building as I’ve always wanted to step foot in this building right by the brown line tracks. And I also wanted to visit the studio of Ahavani Mullen who is a new member of FUSEDChicago. It was a wonderful evening as I always love visiting other studios.

While I was there I ran into Kathleen Waterloo, another Fused member, and I took the opportunity to discuss with her my growing desire to leave out the transfer and just leave my abstract backgrounds as is. I told her how the urge has been growing stronger lately, but that it is so different than my norm that I was a bit anxious about. She said, no, no, you have to follow the urge and that my abstract compositions were already there and that there comes a time in a painting when you just need to stop and let it be. She encouraged me explore it and told me to keep Mies van der Rohe’s words in mind:

Less is More

So while I’ve worked on this painting, that became my mantra. I actually felt that the composition without the bowls was strong enough to stand on its own. And if it were a bigger painting, at least 24×24 inches, then I may have left it alone. But I really wanted to do another bowl painting. There is still a representational object there in the bowls, but the way I drew them was actually a leap for me. I used thread.

I turned to the thread “drawings” because it allowed me to let go, loosen up, allow what may. And I liked what it created: Simple line. Fluidity. Lightness.

This painting has a ton of layers of wax. I lost count. My encaustic paintings always contain many layers, but since this painting was such a struggle for me, there really are a TON of layers. In person, this painting has a definite heft to it.

If you’ve read Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth, you may recognize where the title comes from. There is a story in it about a Zen Master who is able to reply to any situation, be it positive or negative, with one response: Is that so?

“The Master responds to flasehood and truth, bad news and good news, in exactly the same way: “Is that so?” He allows the form of the moment, good or bad, to be as it is and so does not become a participant in human drama. To him there is only this moment, and this moment is as it is. Events are not personalized. He is nobody’s victim. He is so completely at one with what happens that what happens has no power over him anymore. Only if you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your happiness and unhappiness.”


I’ve read the book and also listened to the audio cd which is read by Eckhart Tolle himself. The whole time I was painting this, I kept hearing his somber, particular voice saying “Is that so?” and I couldn’t help but giggle to myself.

Is that so………


  1. by Rosie Kearton on April 25, 2012  3:00 am Reply

    the title has a nonchalant feel to it - as if you have accepted the struggle and then let it go - beautiful image - I really like the simplicity!

  2. by nacherluver on April 25, 2012  8:08 am Reply

    Love the painting, love the story, needed the message. I have that book and will now revisit.

  3. by Tracey Broome on April 25, 2012  8:12 am Reply

    The bowls and the thread..... so symbolic of so many things. The simplicity is perfect! Feeling like an emtpy bowl today with loose threads, my daughter's birthday is today and she will be heading back to school :(

  4. by Just Jen on April 25, 2012  8:34 am Reply

    Oh man. I so totally get this Bri!

    Maybe because I've been doing so much photo-altering/texturizing of late. I look at the feeble attempts at "going back" that are on my table right now and think, "BLECH!"

    My modus operandi has always been more is more. When in doubt add more shit.

    But I'm not loving it anymore.

    Leaning into abstraction is so terrifying coming from a representational place.

    You've made that transition most beautifully!

  5. by Carole on April 25, 2012  10:42 am Reply


  6. by Judy Wise on April 25, 2012  12:22 pm Reply

    Abstraction. Me too. It's frightening but you make it look easy. Love this work, so elegant.

  7. by Kim Hambric on April 25, 2012  2:29 pm Reply

    Love Love Love! Such depth and simplicity at the same time. Peaceful and strong. I'm loving this direction.

  8. by bridgette on April 25, 2012  10:43 pm Reply

    Thanks Rosie. Maybe I'm trying to adopt the "Is that so?" attitude when it comes to my artmaking process too? It's neither good nor bad. Postitive and negative reactions to it is neither good nor bad. Tough, that one.
    Glad that it spoke to you nacherluver. You should get the audiocd and you may laugh to yourself too when you hear the "Is that so....."
    Thank you Tracey. An empty bowl with loose threads is an apt metaphor for how I would feel too if I were in your shoes. Hope your day was ok.

  9. by bridgette on April 25, 2012  10:47 pm Reply

    Jen- you should try out the "Less is More" mantra. It is hard for sure, strangely enough, but it could be a good lesson. I'm not sure if I'll keep going in this direction, but it was something that I needed to try out. and I'm glad I did!

    Thanks Carole.

    Judy- It must seem so strange that this painting has so many layers and that it was such a struggle because it's pretty much white on white..... The battle is one on a mental/emotional/confidence level for me. I've seen your abstract work and love it too.

    Thanks Kim and Mansueude.

  10. by Jennifer on April 26, 2012  9:17 am Reply

    Exquisite. Just simply that. More please.

  11. by Judy Shreve on April 26, 2012  4:35 pm Reply

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. by Judy Shreve on April 27, 2012  6:24 am Reply

    Bridgette - the composition of this piece is stunning - all those layers of white, the horizontal line - grounding and then the gentleness of the bowls. Complex simplicity. Your pieces always touch so wonderfully on the spirit . . .

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.