In late 2020, at age 57, Jeff learned of his Asperger Syndrome profile. Asperger’s added a new layer that to life that is both exciting and complex.
As a religious studies professor (soon to-be-retired), Jeff is working on a book tentatively titled, Zen and the Artful Buddhist: Asperger’s, Art, and Academia. This work describes how he integrates his professional and private personas.
For Jeff, Asperger’s presents itself as an ability for extreme focus, which translates into the skill to do long stints of repetitive linework, and a fierce dedication to continual refinement of his artistic tendencies. In Jeff’s case, Asperger’s also means living in a near constant state of low-level anxiety. This has been radically reduced through art-making, daily meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
On his blog, he writes about the intersections of Buddhism, Art & Spirituality, and life as a Religious Studies professor with Asperger’s Syndrome. He addresses questions like, “How is art-making spiritual? And what does Asperger’s have to do any of this?
In 2021 and 2022, he won 2nd place in the avocational division of the Annual Minnetrista Juried Art Shows (Muncie, Indiana), and had a solo art exhibition in September 2021 at Gordy Fine Art and Framing. That exhibition included several Buddhist-themed pieces, all of which integrated research with personal artistic and spiritual practice. His artwork has been featured in the local Ball State University press, both in print and video. Jeff has also published an article about his journey into art, “Mandalas, Meditation, and Mindful Mark-Making,” where he replies to the question of how spirituality plays a role in his art (“Mandalas, Meditation, and Mindful Mark-Making”; 2018, in Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies).
A native of Southern California with a BA in Religious Studies from UCSB, an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh, Jeff Brackett has a long history of studying the intersections of religious and spiritual practices. He was an art major for a year, but he soon took up another passion: the academic study of religion. Along the way, he lived in India for three consecutive years during graduate school, doing intensive language and culture studies. Jeff is now an award-winning Religious Studies professor at Ball State University (Muncie, Indiana), where he teaches courses about Hinduism, Buddhism, World Religions, and Religion and Pop Culture. He began drawing regularly in October 2016. By 2017, he was showing his work in juried art shows and local venues. He has worked on his artistic techniques by taking college art courses in the summers, whenever possible.