Van Huebner, 1

Interview with Van Huebner

MP:

Would you consider your drawing or sketching a form of meditation?

Van:

Gesture drawing could be said to be the beginning of my drawing as meditation. One was expected to ignore the contours and points, but rather follow the energy of the figure to generate the lines, and quickly resolve it too. This led me to a love of gesture as a finished product as some of my gestures really satisfied me. I think the bulk of my first manicgrams (as I called them) appeared about 1981-1982. Then the manicgrams resurfaced as oil pastels in the late 90’s in Los Angeles. Almost all of the manicgrams were done in the buff– that is, I was naked.

MP:

What prompted you to do them naked?

Van:

Pretense to primal intent, you could say. I had also composed a "prayer" to Pan early on which I would utter. The nakedness stuck but the pretense evaporated– so did the "prayer."

MP:

So this was definitely a form of meditation as it brought you deeper clarity and a sense of original nature or primal nature?

Van:

Yes. Evidence to explore: Everything not part of the subject or process is usually successfully tuned out; a different level of consciousness: figure drawing (naked body) does not cause sexual excitement.

MP:

I'm trying to follow this. The reason you strip down is to eliminate distraction in some way? Does it make you more vulnerable and so more in touch with things in general?

Van:

I don't strip much anymore, because I don't have the same intent to waken Pan... Pan was my way of dealing with fear, but the nakedness was mostly to eliminate the feeling of human devices to shield from nature... insecurity... drawing that way was therefore more than meditation, it was an opening up of numinous space, awe of origins.

MP:

Tell me what numinous space means. Also, you mentioned figure drawing and nudity. Were you drawing yourself?

Van:

"Numinous Space" from Erich Neumann's Origins of Human Consciousness. I was referring to space experienced without self-consciousness, the ego, reflection, and therefore wanting to come as close as possible to an animal response to stimuli, yet set out to find a new human awe of the world.

To refer back to the rest of the last question about figure drawing and nudity: I've not stripped down in a long time. Nor did I do it for all my work. I only did it when I was doing my manicgrams. I worked fast and hard then too. Often hard enough my hands were bruised because I would beat on the picture to get a high sheen from the oil pastel without using a spray fixative.

MP:

Would you say that you were successful in this opening up?

Van:

Not really. I set my sites way too high. But I do think I was onto something...that perhaps our aesthetic, scientific and spiritual attitudes seem to be converging; that this could be some kind of evolutionary start of a new consciousness akin to the shamanic aspiration to heal in every sense/domain– a kind of "triattitude" I used to call it.

MP:

So what is going on now? And where do you find the most elevated experiences in terms of awareness and something of bliss? Is it still with drawing?

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