About althouseart

I'm a Zen Teacher, an ordained Zen Buddhist Priest, Abbot and Co-founded of the Zen Life and Meditation Center of Chicago. I have practiced in the Zen and Tantric traditions for over 40 years and have been teaching for 20 years. Towards the end of 2012, I took up painting again, after having put down my brush over 20 years ago to begin teaching and running a Zen Center in Hawaii. I am now working with digital media on a computer. I am married to June Tanoue and reside with her in Oak Park, Illinois.

Dreamtime Artist Statement

Dreamtime Series: Coyote #2

Painting titled: “Dreamtime Series: Coyote #2”

Dreamtime is a term that refers to Australia Aboriginal culture and religion. These paintings express a spiritual vision of the world that appreciates the interdependent ecologies that make up and support the life of all creatures on this planet. This wholeness is beyond definition or reference points. It includes both order and chaos, clarity and confusion.

Eight of these works are in a group show entitled “World Peace Party” at The Outta Space Gallery during month of May 2017. There is an opening on Friday, May 5th from 6 to 8 pm. Gallery is located at 6840 32nd St., Berwyn, IL 60402.

Boundary Waters – Artist Statement

Boundary Waters #19

Painting titled “Boundary Waters #19”

Boundary Waters

Boundary Waters is the name of a place and it isn’t. The horizon often orients these paintings as a boundary that mirrors water, land and sky; a boundary that unifies rather than divides; a boundary that isn’t a boundary.

“There are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places”
Wendell Berry

Turtle Island Mandala Series

Mandala #9

Painting titled “Mandala #9”

Turtle Island is a term that comes from the American Indian tradition, used to describe North America. For me, the term carries with it a set of values I share about the sacred nature of the world. In this world there is respect for living in harmony with the earth, with the natural world, it’s communities, plants, animals and many beings.

I place these images in the context of mandalas. It’s difficult for me to describe in words what a mandala means. It is not a concept or a symbol, nor is it merely psychological, though it seems to have a healing power that can restore us to wholeness. Mandala arises out of how our experience organizes itself. It’s not about a center. Centers are uncountable. There can’t be a center without a periphery. There can be no enlightenment without delusion, so the mandala includes our confusion, bewilderment, and chaos. The order and chaos include each other. And then, there is the ground of totality beyond any reference point. The mandala is communicating the richness of this human experience, so perhaps it doesn’t need to conform to our visual preconceptions.

Robert Althouse


Mandala #22

Painting titled “Mandala #22”

I find it difficult to put into words, what mandala is about for me. It’s not a concept or a symbol of some kind. It’s not about a center. Centers are uncountable. Mandala arises out of how our experience organizes itself. There can be no enlightenment without delusion. The mandala includes our confusion, bewilderment, fear and chaos. The order and the chaos include each other. And then there is a ground that is larger than this duality as well. And the mandala is communicating the richness of this experience. Perhaps the mandala doesn’t have to conform to our visual preconceptions.

Love Can’t be Divided

Tide #76

Painting titled “Tide #76”

Creating brings me much joy. The surprise and discovery of bringing forth some image in the singularity of this moment of time-being is a mystery to me.  I’m often too close to what I have created to say much about it. But with time, I feel that I might say something that is helpful to someone. I think art proceeds from love, some tenderness for this fragile, changing world we find ourselves residing in. This love can’t be divided. It doesn’t exist in any of the divisions we create between subject and object. It exists before we make the split. It exists in the very fabric of our universe. I’m not certain about much of anything, except this.

Robert Rauschenberg should have the last word here: “I don’t like to take advantage of an object that can’t defend itself.”

Robert Althouse

Tide Show Open Houses

Tide #62

Painting titled “Tide #62”

In November and December 2013, Open Houses will be held for my show of the Tide Series at the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago, at 38 Lake St., Oak Park, IL 60302. I’ll be there to discuss my work, and I’ll also hang new works from the Tide Series. The Open Houses will take place on the following Saturdays, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.:

Nov. 2, 9, 16, 23 and Dec. 14.


Tide Series Statement

Tide #55

Painting titled “Tide #55”

I was originally inspired to do these works after visiting my friends, Peter Cunningham and Ara Fitzgerald on the island of Grand Manan, in Canada just north of Maine at the end of June 2013. An island in the Bay of Fundy, Grand Manan is subject to extreme tidal movements several times a day. I spent many hours walking on the beaches at low tide. Since then, I have been exploring tides as a visual metaphor. Like the seasons, tides are reassuring to me. They are like the way the earth breathes.

These works are digital images, done on a wacom tablet connected to an iMac using a software porgram called Corel Painter 3x. I work from my own photographs, mostly from Grand Manan, and occasionally from photographs taken by Peter Cunningham. I enjoy studying the relationship of water, light, sand, rhythms, waves, rocks, texture, form and space. I have a deep need to integrate form and space in my work. My guide is often the teachings from the Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra of “form is emptiness, emptiness is form.”

Sometimes my images can be busy and chaotic. So sometimes the form gets lost. I am trying to realize in these works some balance where the form is present but not solidified or frozen. The form is in the space, and the space is in the form. They co-create each other.

I worked as a professional painter for about 13 years, working with oil and canvas. I was a figurative and landscape painter. I stopped painting altogether when I co-founded the Zen Center of Hawaii in 1992 with my wife, June Tanoue.

Last year, on a retreat in Wisconsin, I was inspired by the beauty of nature and the Hay River where we spent our time in deep silence and reflection. So I picked up my iPad and began doodling and painting. And I just kept painting because this creative process is a source of great joy and happiness for me. I’m grateful to be able to actualize some creative vision again in my life and look forward to sharing this with others through my web site (www.althouseart.com) and the show I am having at the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago from October to Novermber 2013.