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Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

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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Our screening of Creating Buddhas at the Pacific Asia Museum in January accompanied an exhibition of thankas by master artist Pema Namdol Thaye.  I was struck by two things Pema said during his opening talk, and they’ve stayed with me over these past weeks.

He described how he approaches painting a deity.

First, he talked about the importance of understanding something of the deity you’re creating, having a sense of his nature, his essence. In effect, having a relationship with this deity. On the basis of this relationship, before beginning a project, Pema asks the deity for permission to present it on canvas. Of course, deities are compassionate, he noted. They never say no!

The second comment that struck me seems relevant to much more than artistic creation:  Pema shared that when he paints, the primary painting is done in his mind. (He actually said in his “brain.”) That’s the first painting, the original. Then he simply creates a duplicate on the canvas. That’s the secondary painting, a copy.  Or perhaps better stated, the painting on canvas is a natural outgrowth of the original image in his mind.

Pema said that the painting is complete in his mind before he starts to mix paints or touch brush to canvas. This reminds me of the relationship of intention to manifestation — of anything in our lives. What we paint in our minds materializes in our lives, naturally. Pema provided me a good metaphor to keep in mind in approaching all activity. And a good thought to take with me to Christine Kane‘s Unstoppable Power of Intention retreat next week.

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Every screening of Creating Buddhas is a wonderful opportunity to connect with curious, appreciative people and to share something about a world and an art form I love to talk about. But last Saturday’s screening at the Drikung Kyobpa Choling Tibetan Meditation Center in Escondido, California was extraordinary. A couple of surprise guests helped me to see how valuable and important this film is.

Two Tibetans — Lekshay, a fabric thangka maker and good friend of my teacher Dorjee Wangdu, and Tenzin, son of Namsa Chenmo, personal tailor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Both have lived in San Diego for a number of years. Though I didn’t recognize him at first, Lekshay was a frequent visitor to the tsemkhang (sewing workshop) during my apprenticeship. As we talked on Saturday, the memories moved closer. His daughter had found the Creating Buddhas on YouTube and had told her father who recognized my name. So they responded enthusiastically to the center’s invitation for a screening.

I was a bit anxious sharing the film with Tibetans. I had had a similar feeling a week before as thangka painter, Pema Namdol Thaye, watched in Pasadena. I’m carrying on their tradition. I come from outside the culture. Will they think I’m presumptuous? Will they disagree with my statements? Will they object to the ways I’ve evolved my technique?

After the film, my doubts dissolved. During the question-and-answer session, Lekshay and Tenzin expressed gratitude and appreciation for the film, for Isadora’s production of it, and for my continuing production of fabric thangkas in the west. They spoke of their own limited capacity (and that of Tenzin’s father, Namsa Chenmo) to communicate in English, to present their cultural tradition effectively, and they thanked Isadora and me for doing it. They, and I, were almost moved to tears.

Sometimes I think that making silk thangkas is just too impractical. Sometimes I think of giving it up. At some of those times, a feeling of responsibility keeps me going. I feel I have a responsibility to continue, though I’m not sure to whom or to what. Last Saturday, that sense of responsibility was reinforced. Lekshay has not made thangkas for some years. Working to make a living doesn’t leave enough time. Life in the west doesn’t support this kind of work… I have always known I enjoyed favorable circumstances. Saturday I gained a renewed appreciation for just how precious my situation is. I can continue to make silk thangkas. I can teach. I can write. Not everyone can. Perhaps Lekshay and I will be able to collaborate in the future, to exhibit our work together.

This week I’m grateful for the film, for Isadora’s confidence and perseverance, for Tibetan culture, for smiles… and for YouTube.

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I was preparing to write a joyful and inspiring post tonight, recounting some very gratifying encounters at the last screening of Creating Buddhas… but then I read the sad news below. I’ll save my intended post for tomorrow and dedicate my thoughts tonight to the precious teacher Sangye Yeshi and to many dear friends who were his students. Gen Sangye Yeshi played an invaluable role in carrying traditional Tibetan culture and art into the contemporary world. Many young artists continue to nurture the tradition today as a result of his training.

Fire at Ghangchen Kyishong, one dead

Phayul [Monday, January 26, 2009 18:27]

Dharamsala, Jan. 26 – A two-storeyed staff quarters’ building of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives here caught fire around 2PM today. One person was killed in the tragic incident. The deceased was Ven. Sangay Yeshi, former master of thangka painting (scroll art) at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. The library is located in the premises of Ghangchen Kyishong, the headquarters of the exile Tibetan government.

In a quick succession of events, two blasting sounds were heard while the building was still on fire. Witnesses say the blasts were of two cooking cylinders. However, the fire did not spread to the lower storey of the building.

The firefighters soon arrived on the scene and started extinguishing the blaze. Due to steep height of the building from ground level, the water pressure was inadequate to bring the fire under control. However, the fire was brought under control in about 3 hours.

Exile Tibetan Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche and minister for security Ngodup Donchung visited the site immediately.

Also present at the fire site were Indian officials from the local district administration including the Superintendent of Police, Kangra, and District Commissioner.

Ven. Sangay Yeshi was 86 and one of the last masters of traditional thangka painting in the exile Tibetan community.

The LTWA earlier gave courses in Tibetan thangka painting but the course was discontinued a few years ago. A few students of Ven. Sangay had started a small thangka school in Dharamsala under his guidance and support.

The LTWA is the official National Library, Museum and Archive. The library is now a repository for significant collections of artifacts, manuscripts and other records, while also serving as a centre for language and cultural education.

http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=23679&t=0

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Textile art triptich by Silvie Umiker

Textile art triptych by Silvie Umiker

Today was my first free day to leave Milan in over a month, and what fun I had with it!

I took the train to Lugano. Only an hour away, but I felt like a traveler again. Something about trains makes me feel free and adventurous.

Lugano is always a pleasant experience. Only an hour from Milan but worlds away. Today the pleasure was enhanced by good company and inspiring art.

Four artists have created a fascinating group exhibition, demonstrating both unity and diversity in their collected works. Bea Bernasconi, Marlis Egger, Nina Novikov Brown, and Silvie Umiker are four Ticinese artists who work in textiles. The exhibition, entitled Contrasti (Contrasts) is their first together. It is hosted by the Banca Coop in Piazza Cioccaro 3, Lugano as part of their Eva program for women.

Having met all four women at textile art courses and festivals, I knew they were a creative bunch. But the show exceeded my already high expectations. Silvie patiently guided me through the exhibit, answering my questions and offering both conceptual and technical explanations of the works. We spent almost two hours wandering through the array of colors and textures, and I’m ready to go back for more.

The show is organized by colors and shapes — both contrasting and harmonizing simplicity and complexity, round and rectangular, full and empty, essential and ornamental. Silvie’s work with rusted iron is especially fascinating — layering metal and cloth, blending hard and soft.  All four women show a versatility of technique and an ability to adapt to a variety of materials and ideas. Their enjoyment in playing with the color, form, and texture of their materials is evident. I’m inspired and humbled by what they’ve created.

The exhibition is open to the public during bank hours, from 8:30 to 12:30 and 13:30 to 16:30, Monday through Friday, through January 9. A must-see for all art lovers and certainly an eye-opener for anyone who thinks a quilt is something to put on the bed!

For info, email contrasti@marlisegger.ch or telephone +41 79 6802932.

From left to right, works by Nina Novicov Brown, Marlis Egger, Silvie Umiker, and Bea Bernasconi

From left to right, works by Nina Novicov Brown, Marlis Egger, Silvie Umiker, and Bea Bernasconi

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Endangered Tibetan art form

blossoms in Italy

Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:42am EST

Photo

By Barbara Cornell

MILAN (Reuters Life!) – She left for Dharamsala, India, as an economic and community development volunteer and emerged nearly nine years later as master of a rare Tibetan art form, the fabric Thangka.

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo painstakingly transforms horse hair, fine silk thread, colorful Indian silk fabrics and luscious brocades into traditional depictions of Tibetan Buddhas. A single work takes four months to a year-and-a-half to complete.

Four of her traditional Buddhas and two Tibetan-inspired modern textile pieces are on display in Milan until December 19 at the show “Silk Mosaics: Sacred Images and Techniques from Tibetan Tradition.” Showings can be arranged through January 4.

Rinchen-Wongmo is also the subject of “Creating Buddhas,” a documentary released this fall that will be shown January 18 at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, Calif., which hosted a large exhibition of her work in 2002.

“I never decided to do this,” she said at the Centro Mindfulness Project in Milan, where her work is on display. “When I saw it, it just took me.”

She first saw a crafts center producing fabric Thangkas while touring Dharamsala as part of an economic development team. The intricate, richly colored Buddha tapestries are used in ritual spaces like altars and temples but are so rare that even many Tibetans have never seen one.

Through persistence and luck, perhaps fate, she was allowed to train with a Tibetan master, perfecting delicate stitches amid swarming flies drawn by the raw meat juice smeared on the silk to stiffen it. She now uses a cellulose and acrylic mixture.

She spent a year just learning to embroider eyes.

Sixteen years after that first encounter, Rinchen-Wongmo, 48, is now one of a handful of women fabric Thangka masters and one of the few masters outside Asia. Married to an Italian, the California-born artist lives in Milan and Los Angeles.

She begins by making a drawing in traditional proportions to prepare a template for her bits of cloth. She gives contour to fabric shapes by appliqueing round threads made from three strands of horsehair wrapped in fine silken thread. She sews the shapes together and finishes with a brocade frame.

Rinchen-Wongmo, who uses a Tibetan name meaning “precious, empowered woman,” works on commission so rarely assembles her far-flung Thangkas into a show. Eleven appear on her website, www.silkthangka.com. For exhibition details, visit “Exhibition in Milan” on her blog: stitchingbuddha.wordpress.com.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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Click on the image for a downloadable pdf version:

Mostra a Milano

Mostra a Milano

For the pdf in English, click here.

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