Mary Lang: Small Moments of Sad-Joy

December 9, 2020 - January 17, 2021
Artist Reception: (following socially distanced guidelines) Friday, January 8, 2021
Kingston Conversation: December 16, 2020, 7:00-8:00 pm EST - Featuring Mary Lang with Rachel Lafo. >> Register Here for Zoom.

  • Mary Lang

    Summer solstice, Melrose Street, Auburndale, 2018.

    Summer solstice
  • Mary Lang

    Sprinkler, backyard, Auburndale, 2018.

  • Mary Lang

    October morning, Karmê Chӧling, Barnet, VT, 2019.

    October morning
  • Mary Lang

    Memorial Day weekend, Accord, NY, 2019.

    Memorial Day
  • Mary Lang

    Garden hose and deck, Ryegate, VT, July, 2019.

    Garden hose and deck
  • Mary Lang

    Parking lot at dawn, Karmê Chӧling, Barnet, VT, 2019.

    Parking lot at dawn
  • Mary Lang

    Summer twilight, Auburndale, MA, 2020.

    Summer twilight
  • Mary Lang

    Queen Anne's lace, parking lot, early evening, Auburndale, MA, 2020.

    Queen Anne's lace

Artist Page
Press Release

Artist Statement

I recently became aware of a Japanese phrase – Mono No Aware – which is their term for the awareness of impermanence. According to Wikipedia, it means, literally, the pathos of things, also translated as an empathy toward things, or a sensitivity to ephemera. I thought to myself, "How did I not know of this phrase all these years?" It says it so well. Wikipedia goes on to use many more words to express this simple awareness: The transience of things, and a gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing, as well as a longer, deeper gentle sadness about this state being the reality of life.

I also have used many words to express something similarly ineffable. In my previous artist statements I've called it groundlessness, or "the open-hearted sadness of direct perception, the feeling of liminal presence, an intimacy…", or "the contemplative inner space of a quiet ordinary moment, the space between the in breath and the out breath, a gap full of loneliness and possibility". Chӧgyam Trungpa coined the word sad-joy for this fullness of heart, in touch with the suffering and impermanence of the world, experienced as the joy of being awake and alive to feel it completely.

These photographs are not particularly grand, or vast. No traveling to distant landscapes or seascapes this year. Many are from my yard, or on my street, or just around the block, or from friends' yards in upstate New York or Vermont. A few are from Karmê Chӧling, the retreat center in Vermont whose fields and pond will be familiar to followers of my work, seen again and again, season after season, year after year.

A hose draped over a railing, a doll carriage left alone, lit windows at twilight, the arc of a sprinkler, Queen Anne's Lace at dusk…… Can these images make one stop for a moment, notice, and feel the pathos of things?

Awareness of the transience of all things heightens appreciation of their beauty, and evokes a gentle sadness at their passing.

Small moments of sad-joy.

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