Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Monarch Mudras, Sunflower Sutras, continued...

Here are a few images of the works, their progress, and the show itself.

This would have never been possible without my wonderful mother (an exceptionally talented seamstress), and the keen eyes of Tim and Betsy Forcade of Forcade Associates in Lawrence, Kansas - their fantastic view of color and its effect on a printed piece allowed my work to be seen in a way I have never viewed it before - rich, vibrant, and alive. I extend my thanks to everyone involved in this project.

Before the pieces were placed in the gallery space, I spent my time taping up paper that was roughly about the same size of each work. 

Laying out each print. This was the first time that I had seen the final printed pieces - I was breathless! My mother drove them all the way up from Kansas with her, and we stationed ourselves in a hotel for almost a week to finalize the work. 

Picking out a coordinating fabric for each thangka.

My mother removing thread and other miscellany from inside the Red Tara piece. We just thought it was too goofy to NOT take a photo. 

I apologize for the horrendously blurry photo! A side-by-side of the Guanyin and Red Tara in their final state. 

The final layout. 

Not the most flattering photo (especially my vampire eyes), but you can get the gist of just how large each work was. 

Looking back, I'm remembering just what a rewarding experience it was to make these pieces. I don't think I am completely done with the concept just yet. It still has so much room for growth, and there are other Buddhas/Bodhisattvas that were unable to make the cut for the show (due to time constraints), that I would still love to explore. Eastern imagery never ceases to inspire. 

As a footnote, feel free to take a peek my thesis featured in a few small publications!: 

Until next time! 



Monarch Mudras, Sunflower Sutras: An Exploration of East Meets Midwest

Though thesis has come and passed (I can't believe graduation was almost half a year ago!), I have been yearning to post these to my blog, as well as their process. For those who were not able to attend the show, this body of work focused on my Buddhist upbringing, combining Eastern aesthetics with common Midwestern imagery. I researched various flora and fauna, and combined them with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas that have found themselves in my life. For a better explanation, here is my thesis statement that stood alongside the pieces:

"Creating art is similar to meditating. One must be present, constantly recognizing each and every mark they make. The level of concentration for each process is deep, and immovable. For as long as I can remember, art has been my meditation. It always brings me back to a state of awareness that no other process can recreate. 

Growing up, meditation was commonplace in my family. As a child, I remember sitting silently next to my parents, tracing the patterns I found in the woodgrain on the floor. At other times, I would intensely study the artwork that sat above the altar. As a result, these images etched themselves into my mind. The rich, illustrative paintings told fantastic stories of Buddhist deities and tales of compassion and awareness. Each figure existed for a specific purpose – to aid those in need, to provide spiritual and physical healing, to magnetize good thoughts, and to care for those who suffer. 

While I have passed through life and shared its experiences, I have found my own meanings of compassion, healing and spirituality. These pieces are the manifestation of those findings. They are a combination of tradition and experience. While the Eastern imagery has been the backbone and heart of these works, my midwestern roots have become the soul. In turn, creating these pieces became a meditative process that lead me to new personal discoveries.

I have found that divinity, strength and compassion find themselves in each and every individual’s own worldliness. From homeopathic remedies, to traversing the hills of Northeastern Kansas, to witnessing the extravagant monarch migration, I have experienced the presence of these spiritual figures – these are my monarch mudras, and sunflower sutras."

The Thousand Hand Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara) - The Bodhisattva of compassion, the Guanyin was granted with one-thousand arms in order to help all those who suffer in the world. In this piece, her arms spiral around her, forming the shape of a rising sun. She is one of the most popular feminine figures of buddhism, and rose to represent the female form of Buddha’s compassion.

The Medicine Buddha - A healer of inner and outer illness. A fully enlightened being with unbiased compassion for all living things, and protects them from all dangers and sicknesses. Here, he is depicted as a healer with Eastern medicines, holding acupuncture needles and tea.

The Shakyamuni Buddha (Gautama Buddha) - The Shakyamuni Buddha is one of the most common depictions of the teacher who founded Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama. ‘Buddha’ translates to ‘awakened one’, and ‘Shakyamuni’ refers to the Shakya Clan. The Shakyamuni Buddha obtained enlightenment after 49 days of meditation. The many blooming flowers around his figure represent his awakening. 

Vajrapani (The Defender of the Dharma) - Often translated as “thunderbolt”, or “diamond”, Vajrapani is the protector and guide to the Buddha, and has become the symbol of Buddha’s power. In many depictions, he is usually looked at as wrathful, but is extremely active in a positive nature. This depiction pulled influence from Kansas artist John Steuart Curry’s painting “Tragic Prelude”, which hangs in the Kansas capitol building.

 Sarasvati - The Goddess of wisdom, music and the arts. Her name originated from ‘saras’, which means ‘flow’ and ‘wati’, which means woman. Although she originated in India under Hinduism, she eventually became a figure in Buddhism as well. Now, she is known as a guardian deity to the Buddha, offering protection and assistance. She represents the knowledge of creativity, such as music, literature, and the visual arts.

The Red Tara (Kurukulla) - A Bodhisattva of magnetism and enchantment. Some researchers compare her to the Western goddess Aphrodite. With her alluring red skin, she is called upon to bring others under her power, such as evil spirits, demons and humans who work against the welfare of humanity. 

When I first started this project, I admit that I was nervous to put this part of myself out in the public. Though I personally respect and support Buddhist teachings, I worried how the public would respond. I feared that people could take offense with my more stylized approach to these figures. However, I placed those fears aside, and decided to focus on the process and the joy it gave me to see these six works take shape. Each one was an intense learning experience. What has been even more rewarding however, is the absolutely positive response I have received in the last few months from practicing Buddhists and communities. These works have found themselves in Kansas, Seattle, and Milwaukee - in personal altars and within galleries. People have found them empowering, healing and meditative, and this is one of the major reasons I decided to pursue this project. Their greatest accomplishment has been their communicative nature, and their ability to reach people near and far.  

I will be adding a few photos of the progress and the people who made these possible in the next post!