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Archive for April, 2009

So Many Ideas

The Blog Triage course that Alyson Stanfield and Cynthia Morris are running is spectacular — inspiring, motivating, and, well, a bit overwhelming too!

These two women have put together a rich assortment of ideas to get and keep us writing. They clearly did their homework. And now they’re keeping up with us every day — giving feedback, encouragement, and coaching. Awesome!

This week’s exercise was to generate (and organize) a variety of ideas for blog posts, keeping our readers and our purpose firmly in mind.

So far, I’ve come up with a few categories and a random smattering of other intriguing things. Let me know what you think.

Here are my categories (and a picture of the little boy in my 2006 Pool of Light piece. He looks like he’s cooking up some ideas too!):

Pool of Light, detail. Tibetan silk appliqué by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo

Pool of Light, detail. Tibetan silk appliqué 19x30" © Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo

How To’s

  • how to hang a thangka
  • how to roll up a thangka
  • how to arrange the drape
  • how to clean a thangka (or as a conservator recently told me, “in a word, ‘don’t'”)
  • how to wrap a horsehair cord with silk thread
  • how to twist thread (ever examined a piece of string?)
  • how to photograph textile art (I’ve got more learning than teaching to do on this one, so I may ask your help!)

FAQs (the questions people ask me at screenings and exhibitions)

  • Where do you get the patience? (This one’s done!)
  • Where to get horsehair (along with stories of my adventures on the way to figuring it out)
  • How’s your eyesight?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How did you get in to your apprenticeship? Was it hard to get access, to be allowed in as an outsider?
  • Are spiritual practices an integral part of the work , mantras, visualization,…
  • Why I like to make thangkas on commission
  • How does commissioning a thangka work?
  • How do I choose which image to make
  • … and many more…

Lists

  • Tibetan art websites and blogs
  • Sites that link Art and Buddhism (or art and religion)
  • The blogs of our Blog Triage group
  • Blogs and websites that inspire me and might inspire you too
  • Tibetan art galleries and collections

Reviews & Reports

  • of Museums I visit
  • of Textile art exhibitions
  • of relevant books I read
  • of Buddhist and Tibetan-culture-related events

Interviews or Profiles (yikes! these will take some work, but could be great fun)

  • of other thangka artists
  • of other textile artists, especially those who are working in a traditional form
  • of other western artists working in a foreign cultural tradition

Random (and incomplete) smattering of other intriguing thoughts

  • Quirky observations of the expat life
  • Explanations of the parts of a thangka, how they’re constructed, the brocade mount, etc.
  • Articles and blog posts that inspired me or solved a problem
  • Relevant office supplies, software, and gadgets I’ve found helpful (like this great little online stopwatch for managing task time)
  • Balancing the solitary nature of art making (which appeals to the introverted part of me) with the need for social contact (to energize and awaken the extroverted part of me)
  • Explanations or translations of Tibetan art lingo, Buddhist lingo, thangka lingo
  • Physical objects I find or see which inspire me
  • Tibetan art scholarship news, events, writing, discoveries
  • Thangkas I’ve seen or am studying or find on the web
  • Continuing experiments with a variety of textile art techniques
  • Inspirations of various sorts, wherever they may turn up (and they’re everywhere!)

If you’re a regular reader of my blog — or even if you’ve just stopped by and like what you see — tell me some things you’d like to read about here. I’ll see what I can do.

I’d also love for you to help me fill in some details on the ideas I’ve outlined above. That way you can help me be more interesting to you. Sounds like a good thing for both of us!

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It’s been raining for three days in Milan. As usual, everyone’s fed up…

Rainy Milan

Rainy Milan

This seems to be the “normal” response to rain everywhere — for all but farmers with parched crops.

I, on the other hand, LOVE rain. Really. I’m even sad when it ends. And one of only two defects I see when I think of  moving back to southern California is that it doesn’t rain enough there! (The other is the absence of a public health care system…)

Look out the window. If it’s raining or drizzly, notice the trees.

Greens become so much more saturated in the cloud-filtered light. The infinite shades of green are so much more clearly differentiated. Ah, and the colors of wet stones — who knew there were so many?

During a pause, when brilliant blue sky peeks through dark gray clouds with fluffy white piled above, a magical, glowing light illuminates the wet hills (or buildings in Milan’s case) in the distance… At those moments, my heart opens and aches at the beauty.

I know, I’m weird. I was virtually the only person who enjoyed the Dharamsala monsoon. As most friends escaped to drier places, I reveled in the daily rainfall, the wet stones, the luscious greens, the sky’s shades of gray, and the everchanging play of light. I even put up with the allergies I developed to mildew.

Dharamsala Market. Girls caught in monsoon rains. by Elizeu & Rommey on Picasa

Dharamsala Market. Girls caught in monsoon rains. by Elizeu & Rommey on Picasa

Rainy days are pensive. (I used to say, “melancholy,” but I think I just liked the word.) They turn us inward into the rich, damp soil of our hearts and imaginations. They’re great days for artwork, for handwork… and for sitting by a fire if you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace. For now, I’ll just dream of that one.

It took me years to understand that most people don’t appreciate rain the way I do. And that some truly suffer on gray days. Once I realized, I wondered if maybe I should tone down my enjoyment — out of sympathy, compassion…

But what good would that do for anyone? My misery isn’t likely to lift their spirits. Quite the opposite!

My pleasure — if expressed sensitively — may even brighten someone else’s otherwise dreary mood. SO I’m sticking with my joy and hoping that a little bit of it rubs off on you.

Happy rainy day!

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Okay, I’m ready to try again.

My intention is to start a series of posts addressing the questions people ask me about my work.  Some of you may recall that my patience was tested the other day when I wrote my first post in this series — about patience! This time I’m writing offline and saving every few minutes. I’m determined not to repeat the experience!

When people look at my artwork, and particularly after they view the film about my process, they invariably comment on patience. Either they exclaim, “I could never do what you do! I don’t have the patience!” Or they admiringly ask, “Where do you get such amazing patience? It must be your Buddhst practice.”

I suppose it’s natural that they have this reaction, looking at the intricacy of the images which take months to complete…

Not seeing the stitches and thinking they’re smaller than they really are…

When they hear that I wrap horsehair with silk thread — by hand! — they are convinced I must have supernatural levels of tolerance.

The truth is very different.

I’ve thought about this a lot — mostly because it surprised me to be thought patient.

People who know me… well, let’s just say that they generally have a different impression. I would love to be an infinitely patient person, but I often struggle with my impatience, my resistance to how things are (almost always different from how I think they should be). I often don’t take well to being inconvenienced, I’m sorry to say. And as for my Buddhist practice… well, it’s rather undisciplined.

But with my work…  I simply enjoy my work.

Realizing this, I reflected on when patience really comes into play. It has nothing to do with small stitches or long work hours or months to completion. It has to do with resistance… or dislike.  Annoyance or intolerance. We don’t need to be patient with what we like — or with what we don’t even notice, for that matter!

I enjoy the process of creating a silk thangka. I revel in the fabrics, I care for each stitch. Sure, I get impatient when the thread tangles and frustrated when I have to re-do a piece. Just as anyone does when they break a glass or burn some toast.

But generally, I’m happy when I’m working. I like seeing the image come together, even in its slow details. I love when the thread wraps smoothly around the horsehair (more about horsehair in my next post in this series). There’s not much I’d rather be doing. So there’s really no call for patience.

What do you do that seems to require patience but is actually transparently pleasurable to you?

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WFMU’s Beware of the Blog brought this to my attention:

The Newark Museum is celebrating their 100th birthday (from yesterday through Sunday, April 26) with 100 straight hours of free admission and loads of activities. There’s a schedule on their website.

To quote WFMU,

The Newark Museum is a gem that sometimes gets lost in the shadow of New York’s mega museums.  They have one of the largest collections of Tibetan art outside of Tibet, and since the 1930’s have had a gorgeous consecrated Tibetan Buddhist altar, most recently renovated in the 1990’s by a monk who worked on it for months, offering visitors the chance to observe his daily progress.

I have to concur. Besides having one of the best Tibetan collections around, it’s one of the only collections to include silk appliqué thangkas! They have a large 15th century Medicine Buddha silk thangka from Gyantse on display, along with a video of its restoration in 2002. There’s also a photo series of an unveiling of the giant Drepung thangka in 1999, by Nancy Jo Johnson. An unusual fabric thangka of Tsongkhapa in the Museum’s collection is not currently displayed.

I recently visited the Museum for the second time and highly recommend going if you have the chance. Friendly staff too!

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I’m afraid I have to ask you to be patient… if you’re waiting for the patience post.

As part of my effort to make this blog as useful, informative, fun, and vibrant as possible, I’m taking a 4-week Blog Triage class with Alyson Stanfield and Cynthia Morris. (Click on their names to check out their blogs and see what good role models I’ve chosen!)

The first homework assignment is to describe my audience — who do I want to have reading my blog? In other words, who are you in my imagination and intention?

Well, maybe I have to start with who I am:

I move between being a creative artist (with my own imagery, experimentation with techniques, shows and other events, etc) and a researcher / writer / aspiring “expert” / spokesperson for an underappreciated sacred cultural tradition….

Since the cultural tradition is an expression of Buddhism, it’s also linked to spirituality, philosophy, and personal growth — subjects about which I often have thoughts and questions. And I invite others to question along with me.

And then there’s my life as an international nomad… which seems to fascinate others while exhausting me. Writing positively about this helps ground me and keeps the joy of movement awake in me.

So who are you, my readers, then?

You are:

  • textile artists and color lovers
  • Buddhist practitioners and Asian culture enthusiasts
  • travelers of Tibet and India touched by the art and devotion there

You are also:

  • collectors of Himalayan art interested in contemporary trends
  • collectors of textile art interested in traditional methods and new ways of applying them
  • art lovers ready to commission your first piece.. or your tenth
  • home dwellers who seek to surround yourselves in beauty
  • admirers of finely handcrafted work
  • academics researching Tibetan culture
  • people who enjoy questioning your assumptions, opening new possibilities, looking from new angles, and examining yourselves
  • armchair travelers or adventurers experienced in expat life
  • past and future visitors to the Rubin Museum of Art, the Newark Museum, the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, LACMA, the Pacific Asia Museum, Musée Guimet, and the Tibet House and other Himalayan art collections

You live all over the world. You are curious, inquisitive, and responsive. And you just LOVE to engage in conversation about beauty, growth, art, craft, fabrics, thangkas, colors, creativity, possibilities, practices for awakening, … and Tibetan art history. (Hint, hint. That means you make comments. See the comments link below? Yes, right there. That’s it.)

You’re creative, courageous, and interesting… and I just love talking with you!

Don’t see yourself here? Tell me then. Who are you?

Thank you for being part of my community.

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photo from Clemson University Newsroom, March 2008

photo from Clemson University Newsroom, March 2008

In an ironic twist of fate, I had my patience tested yesterday. See, I’ve been meaning to start a series of posts on the questions people ask me about my work… and my responses to them.

As people spend time with my work, at some point they invariably make some comment about patience. An admiring, “Wow, what patience you have!” Or a self-deprecating, “I could never do what you do. I don’t have the patience.”

So yesterday I set out to write a post about patience. Added incentive was provided by my new commitment to spend twenty minutes every day writing (and that doesn’t count e-mail!)

I set my timer. I wrote. It was good. I liked what I was writing. It came easily, was fresh, funny, honest… I was pleased. Okay, just save the draft for a final proofread later, and …

Poof!

I don’t know what was up with WordPress yesterday, but “Save Draft” resulted in “revert to what was on the page before you started writing,” i.e. the title! My post was gone.

Well, as I had written, I’m actually not a very patient person. (“Ask my husband. Ask my parents,” I wrote.)

Given that, I think I handled the experience pretty well. I even laughed. A poet recently told me about how important it is to learn not to fall in love with your own work. Maybe I liked my post a bit too much. I’ll write it again soon, but differently I’m sure. For now, it’s like one of those Tibetan sand mandalas that gets swept into the river at its most beautiful. Bye bye post! See you around! In your next unique incarnation…

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Lotus by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo, 2009

Lotus by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo, 2009

I’m trying out Twitter. Not sure what will come of it but curious enough to give it a go.

Now, it seems to me that if I want people to “follow” me, I should give them some reason to do so. I just don’t think many people are interested in what I’m eating for breakfast. Who knows?

SO… here’s my idea:

I’m going to start two regular tweets.

Weekly Thangka will give a link each week to a thangka that I find on the web. I’ll try to uncover some unusual pieces with good photos and/or descriptions and, of course, will emphasize textile forms as much as possible. Contributions are welcome. Let me know what you find.

Thangka Tidbits will be occasional bits of information about thangkas. How they’re made, what they’re composed of, history, functions, etc., etc. I’ll share what I know and what I learn along the way, in small tweet-size chunks (less than 140 characters). I hope it will be interesting and useful. It’s an experiment!

Follow me on Twitter to see how what arises. Starting soon…

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