For me, Lyn was a mentor as well as an artist. I first met him in 1971 at the home he and his wife, Phyllis, shared with their children Chris, Mimi, and Leslie, on the Meher Spiritual Center grounds in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Meeting Lyn was memorable. The whole Ott family was memorable. Their large ranch house was like a fish bowl through which swam the many pilgrims to the Meher Baba Center, continually in search of well, in search of Baba, and any nugget or grain of memory of Him from those who had met Him.
The Otts had met Baba in the '60s, in India. Baba had allowed Lyn to cradle His Face in Lyn's hands and examine it. Lyn suffered from retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive eye disease, and was, though a passionate painter, significantly sight-impaired when he met Baba.
Lyn describes his meeting in detail in his book IN QUEST OF THE FACE OF GOD. A great writer who turned to that art in the mid '70s when he could no longer see or paint at all, Lyn applied his prodigious mental powers to contemplating the significance of his moments with Baba, and to sharing the precious nectar of those experiences, via the written word. Lyn also wrote passionately in thebook of his inner life with Baba, his life in art, and the relationship between the two.
One of the anecdotes Lyn narrates has to do with his asking Baba in India, "Isn't it just a lot of ego to make beautiful paintings?" Baba replied, "Nothing you do for the Beloved is ego." (note: "The Beloved", eg. the Divine Beloved, refers to God or the Spiritual Master, the personification of God.)
When Lyn returned to America, he was sitting in his studio in Woodstock, New York one day, thinking, "What, of the painting that I do, is for the Beloved, and what is for myself?" Lyn had studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design and the New York Art Students' League, and had been a professional New York expressionist artist for some time. He had done nudes, abstract paintings, and whatever else his quest for truth and beauty had inspired him to do. As he later said, "Before I met Meher Baba, art was my religion."
Now, in his studio, he realized that the only way he could be certain he was painting "for the Beloved" was to paint the Beloved, Himself. From then until the end of his painting career, in 1976, Lyn painted images of Meher Baba exclusively. He did huge, visionary canvasses of Baba, emblazoned with all the archetypal symbolism of modern art. Baba's Face or Form simply became the foreground of each painting. The backgrounds of Lyn's paintings might draw from his imagination, or they might depict Lyn's family, or Baba's close Disciples, or a confetti of powerful abstract energies.
Lyn did some 500 such Baba paintings. The last year or so, when he created a number of his biggest and most powerful, canvasses, he had to hold his face an inch or so from the canvas in order to see anything at all. Such a degree of difficulty, overcome for love, places the works among the rare artistic achievements of the human spirit.
By the Grace of God, I had the rare privilege of working for Lyn for nearly a year, helping him to edit some of his writings. I will be eternally thankful to have been allowed to dine at the banquet of Lyn's great, passionate and compassionate mind. The Fire with which he saw art and life had an alchemical effect on my own consciousness. It awakened a deep love of visual art in me, helped make me a painter and a better poet, and affirmed the validity of my own passionate quest for the Divine as Beauty.
Most of all, what I could see of Lyn's life and mind showed me that loving God means being human, loving life, being helpless at times, and trusting Him. I felt I was at The Lord's Table, on the receiving end of a Cornucopia, when I dined with Lyn and Phyllis during my stint as his assistant in '81-2. The delicious food and the scintillating conversation, with Ott paintings glittering on all the walls, left me feeling ecstatic. For all I saw and felt, though, Lyn symbolized a mystery of the unique relation of a lover to the Beloved, that will contine to awe and baffle me until I traverse that ground of discipleship, myself.