Arts Asks: Sandra Lerner

Sandra Lerner
Kirstin E. Anderson

Sandra Lerner explores a universe in constant flux through her art exhibit hanging in Monroe C. Gutman Library.

Sandra Lerner is a painter based in New York whose work explores the intersections between Eastern philosophy and theories in physics and cosmology. Her work is featured in collections around the world, including the Kampo Museum in Kyoto and the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Connecticut. Currently, ten of her paintings are on display in the Gutman Gallery, at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. This exhibit, “Creative Flux,” takes as its theme visual representations of Taoism and modern physics.

The Harvard Crimson: When did you discover Taoism?

Sandra Lerner: In the sixties, I went to a gallery opening that was selling these books on Taoism, and I read a passage by Lao Tsu from the “Tao Te Ching”.

“Look, it cannot be seen-it is beyond form—

Listen, it cannot be heard-it is beyond sound.—

Grasp, it cannot be held- it is intangible.—

These three are indefinable,

Therefore they are joined in one.”

“Stand before it and there is no beginning.

Follow it and there is no end.

Stay with the ancient Tao,

Move with the present.”

I discovered this in the midst of the human potential movement, and I became very interested in Taoism, Buddhism, and eastern philosophy. Then in the mid-sixties, I read Lawrence LeShan’s book, ‘The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist.’ I was thunderstruck by the similarities with physics and what they were proving and theorizing, which was so similar to what the Eastern mystics have been experiencing for thousands of years—that in the universe everything is interconnected, interdependent, and molecules on the smallest level [are] creating, annihilating, co-creating again.

THC: How have your trips to Japan and elsewhere in Asia influenced your art?

SL: I’ve travelled through Asia and been to Japan many times. I studied calligraphy with a master calligrapher there. This calligrapher in Japan sort of adopted me as a daughter, and I spent a total of eight months there studying with him, and I was an honored guest.

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