Io Free Jones
Occasionally art and spirit come together. When they do, our senses awaken, our perception changes, and we begin to see and feel the world in a new light. When art achieves the grace and power to deepen our perception, we regard such work as sacred. Sacred means "set apart" for contemplation and spiritual communion, and that unique purpose is what these paintings by Io Free Jones were created to serve.
Traditionally, the learning of a sacred art involves two fundamental dimensions. One is the rigorous study and practice of the technical elements of the art, and the other is the equally intense study and practice of spiritual contemplation. When the two streams of training merge into one, when the technical skill and the contemplative discipline are practiced simultaneously, the artist goes beyond herself via ecstatic participation with the subject, and the sacred is thus manifest. In the case of Io Free Jones, her spiritual and artistic apprenticeship was practiced in the company of her beloved father and teacher, Adi Da Samraj.
Some people become aware of their purpose at an early age. Io has been passionate about art since she was a small child, and this impulse has always had the good fortune of being encouraged and guided by a true master of art and spirit. Bhagavan Adi Da Samraj has not only been Io's art mentor, he is also her father and spiritual teacher. In traditional cultures worldwide, it has been understood that the most demanding and cherished form of human relationship is with an incarnated spiritual master. And this spiritual relationship is the key to understanding Io's life and art. These paintings, selected by the artist, are her visual portrayal of the ecstatic relationship between daughter and father, devotee and spiritual master. In this regard they exemplify the love and demand, the instruction and testing, that makes true life and great art out of the ancient sacred ordeal.
Io has been drawing, doodling and painting from the time she was two. Early on it was apparent that Adi Da Samraj was the subject of much of her young work. Adi Da Samraj used one of her early portraits of him for the cover of his children's book I Am Happiness.
Io’s formal apprenticeship intensified at age ten with an in-depth study of Indian Mogul miniatures, Tibetan Thankas, early Christian religious art, and Russian iconography. Her studies were steeped in Adi Da Samraj's observations and writings on the world's sacred traditions. By the age of thirteen she was painting serious murtis—sacred portraits—of Adi Da Samraj. These murtis were in the form of miniatures, created at his request for him to gift to others in celebration of birthdays or other special occasions.
Often, these works took the form of jewelry with ornate handmade frames, gilded and carved details and many other embellishments. They took many weeks to complete, as Io’s life of apprenticeship also included academic studies and daily meditation. Adi Da Samraj guided each piece of Io’s art, and gave his final approval when the artwork was finished. As a deadline neared, the work would intensify, and often require many hours of daily concentrated painting.
I used to look through photographs of Bhagavan for many hours, sometimes for several days before selecting one that "spoke" to me somehow. This was of greatest importance because the process of making these paintings involves the essence of meditation. He told me that the secret to great art was that the artist has to get out of the picture. In the beginning I would struggle for days to get the image right, and He always approved them when I least expected it, usually when I had completely broken down, erased His face 10 times and had given everything I had. At that moment something magical would occur and He would enter the painting and it would radiate. Only He could tell me when this was. Over the years this process became very tangible to me and I knew in my body when He had taken over the image. It has become an effortless process for me. Inspiration means breath of God. It is obvious to me when I paint Bhagavan, that at some point He completely becomes alive in the painting. He taught me contemplation through painting; this is what my work is about.
By the time she was eighteen, Io was painting full size murtis of Adi Da Samraj. At his suggestion, Io went on to further her study of fine art at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where she graduated magna cum laude. But the sacred art of the murti has always formed the core of her spiritual practice and artistic endeavor. The symbols and iconography in these paintings tell the story of both the artist’s relationship to her subject, and also the sacred history of the life of Adi Da Samraj. Understood in this manner, Io's paintings are visual stories, or leelas. Io’s unique dedication to her father and spiritual master has shaped her life and guided her artwork and will continue to do so for the rest of her life.
Io hopes the paintings offered for sale on this website will be received as sacred murtis of Adi Da Samraj, and used for the sacred purpose of contemplation they are intended to serve.
Only that which is loved is beautiful…The necessary essence of art is Love…Love must be the mother of the arts, not architect, not structure, not function. True art always involves the observer in the participatory gesture of being, or what we call love.
– Adi Da Samraj