Dates: November 2-21, 2012

The Ox Herding series depicts the Zen Buddhist path to enlightenment, a spiritual journey of discovering one’s True Self. Attributed to a twelfth-century Chinese Zen Master, the original series is composed of ten ink paintings with poems that depict a spiritual journey using the metaphor of an ox herder who has lost her ox, her most valuable possession. She must travel great distances, through brambles and forests, deep into the mountains, to find this wayward ox and somehow bring her home.

The Ox Herding series closely parallels very specific stages that a Zen student encounters in her training, but also offers guideposts to anyone undertaking a spiritual journey. The ox wants to eat sweet grass and wander at will. The ox gets angry when the ox herder tries to rope her in. We like to satisfy all of our desires all of the time, and are unhappy when we don’t get what we want.  Yet, with a clearer understanding of how our minds respond in any given situation, we gradually learn how to be free and compassionately engaged in the world.

Sometimes we set out on this journey because we feel a profound loneliness or a sense that there must be something more than the roller coaster ride of emotions we experience every day. Other times, a major event in our lives reveals how much we are suffering. And even when our lives seem satisfying, there is often a gnawing discontent that we fill with distractions and daily busyness.

Setting out on the spiritual search takes courage; for once on the path there is no place to turn back to, there is no other road. We have to break through our reluctance to let go of what we think we know, what we have always counted on. We have to be fearless enough to respond to this tugging of our own despair.

It is disorienting. Which direction to turn? How to find the path? Where does the path lead? The book Riding the Ox Home, Stages on the Path of Enlightenment led me to my first Zen teacher, John Daido Loori (1931–2009), founder of Zen Mountain Monastery. When I first heard him speak about the dharma,
the teachings of Zen, I dissolved into tears. He had touched something deep inside me, and I was desperate to discover what had happened and what
it had to do with my life.

Over the years, the Ox Herding series became a way for me to explore these questions. And as a sculptor,
I have been challenged to render the traditional two-dimensional paintings into three dimensions. I also changed six hundred years of tradition and made the ox herder a woman.

Ox herding is hard. The journey is neither smooth nor straight; there is mud to sink into and brambles that hide the path. The ox is strong and stubborn, a creature of habit. This journey demands great patience. Like walking a labyrinth, I find myself circling back almost to the beginning as new challenges appear, but continuing nevertheless, because this path offers so much wisdom and does become easier to navigate.

I am indebted to the many teachers who have written about this journey. My deepest gratitude goes to my teacher Konrad Ryushin Marchal, Abbott of Zen Mountain Monastery for his guidance and perceptive teachings — about both the ox and the mud — along this challenging and astonishing path.


About forty years ago I was given an antique twin lens Rolleifex camera with which I made rather melancholy but evocative black and white landscapes of Martha’s Vineyard. People responded. With guidance and critique from painters and a few photographers I respected, I developed a style which obscures boundaries between painting and photography, emphasizing shape and atmosphere rather than content
or locale.

For much of my career, I processed and printed black and white images in a darkroom, the early ones in apartment closets and bathrooms. Later I printed with Kodacolor and Cibachrome chemistry and learned to archivally mat my work. Given my place on the timeline of photographic technology, I experienced the often conflicting transition from darkroom to digital, a formative journey that led me to now comfortably straddle film and digital photography.

Topography: Two Expressions includes my series of rock faces, which I treat as abstract swirls similar to action painters of another era. These natural surfaces, which include hewn house foundations in my neighborhood, yield authentic and substantive possibilities. The same rock face develops character and depth depending on varying degrees of light and weather. I find it wonderfully ironic that a Somerville duplex foundation has the splendor of a Maine coastline.

Linda Hoffman and Timothy Wilson: Topography: Two Expressions

Linda Hoffman and Timothy Wilson: Topography: Two Expressions

Exhibition Reception Date:

November 4, 3-5:00pm

Exhibition Opening:

November 2, 2012

Exhibition End Date:

November 21, 2012

Exhibition Year:



Relavent Links

View photos of exhibition for Linda Hoffman

View photos of exhibition for Timothy Wilson