Arthur Okamura: Buddha’s Garden


March 13, 2024 - April 6, 2024    
10:00 am - 6:00 pm


Paul Thiebaud Gallery
645 Chestnut St., San Francisco, , California, 94133

Event Type

Explore the Tranquil Beauty of Arthur Okamura’s “Buddha’s Garden”

The Paul Thiebaud Gallery invites art enthusiasts to delve into the serene world of Arthur Okamura in their upcoming exhibition, “Buddha’s Garden.” Opening on February 17th, 2024 with a reception from 3-5pm, this showcase marks the debut presentation of works from the Okamura Estate.

A Journey Through Brushstrokes and Zen

The exhibition features ten captivating acrylic paintings, each a window into Okamura’s artistic vision. Explore surreal Asian rock gardens, vibrant Western floral havens, and captivating representations of the Buddha. A dedicated Zen Buddhist, Okamura’s (1932-2009) life and practice are woven into the very fabric of his art. This is evident in the brushwork, subject matter, and carefully chosen color palettes that evoke a sense of tranquility and contemplation.

A Life in Gardens

Okamura’s lifelong fascination with gardens is a central theme in his work. From the early 1970s until his passing in 2009, he repeatedly explored the beauty of both Eastern and Western garden designs. The influence of his friend, Richard Crawford, is evident in several works capturing the meticulous floral arrangements of Crawford’s Hawaiian garden. These paintings share a stylistic kinship with the famed gardens of Giverny, immortalized by Claude Monet a century earlier.

In contrast to the lushness of the floral pieces, Okamura’s “Rock Studies” present a meditative stillness. Each composition features a trio of stones surrounded by swirling lines reminiscent of the patterns found in Japanese sand gardens. The artist’s skillful layering of paint creates a sense of energy emanating from the stones, while simultaneously lending a dreamlike quality to the scene. The symbolism of rocks in Asian gardens is left open to interpretation, with meanings ranging from islands and mountains to representations of natural power or even the Buddha himself.

The Enduring Presence of the Buddha

Depictions of the Buddha figure are another recurring theme in Okamura’s work. The exhibition includes two large-scale paintings showcasing the Buddha in the lotus position. “Kamakura” (1994) embodies a more traditional style, with its calming jade greens and detailed rendering of the Buddha’s robes. In contrast, “American Buddha” (1994) presents a bolder interpretation, featuring a vibrant backdrop of blues and purples complemented by the radiating lines seen in the rock studies.

A Life Dedicated to Art and Zen

Born in California in 1932, Okamura’s life was marked by both hardship and artistic pursuit. During World War II, his family was forced into internment camps. Following the war, Okamura honed his artistic skills at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, later embarking on a career as an educator. A pivotal moment in his life was encountering Zen Buddhism under the guidance of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. This spiritual practice deeply influenced Okamura’s life and work, leading to a professorship at the California College of Arts and Crafts.

A Legacy in Paint

Arthur Okamura’s vast artistic legacy transcends the boundaries of medium, including paintings, drawings, watercolors, and prints. His works have graced numerous exhibitions across the United States and are featured in prestigious collections around the world. “Buddha’s Garden” offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the serene beauty of Okamura’s artistic vision, where Zen philosophy meets the captivating world of gardens and the enduring presence of the Buddha.

Don’t miss this captivating exhibition! Mark your calendar for February 17th and experience the tranquility of “Buddha’s Garden” at the Paul Thiebaud Gallery.

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