Art / Tibet

Remember You Will Die

Did you forget?  Do not miss the The Rubin Museum of Art, tucked away in the heart of Chelsea in New York City.  It is a treasure of art, history and perspective as seen through the eyes of artists in the Himalayas.

Visitors may nervously react to the current exhibit: Remember That You Will Die:  Death Across Cultures with gruesome relics and paintings of death from both the Buddhist faith as well as the Christian faith.  The lovely Tibetan box painted in bright colors with flayed human skin overlapping the wood or the multitudes of skeletons painted on sacred thangkas.  Startling are the human bone beads delicately carved and strung into an intricate apron for a llama to wear on special occasions.  Yet, there is no relief, even the flute on exhibit is made from a human shinbone.  Escaping the brutal relics of death to the other side of the exhibit is pointless.  The Christian art is just as brutal with beautifully painted bodies draped in loving arms – dead.  Then there are the same skulls and skeletons engraved or sculpted just as horrific as the Tibetan Buddhist pieces.  Though absent are human bones of Christian origin – as they must be enshrined somewhere around the world in a glass case for pilgrims to be blessed by being in the presence of a saint’s relics.   Regardless the diversity of religious tradition or instruction, the message and purpose of such art is the same:  live every day to the fullest as though it was your last.

Contrasting death, the Tradition Transformed:  Tibetan Artists Repsond the first exhibit of contemporary Tibetan art in New York offers a little lightness of thought and visual beauty.  From the installation of the many traditional Buddha statues mounted on the wall yet this time as seen from the backside to the edgy contemporary photographer Losang Gyatso who plays with light and multiple layers of a bright colorful Tara image, each artist reveals the edge in contemporary Himalayan art.  These artists risk tradition, politics and understanding of their art.  The tension between tradition and being contemporary plays in each piece with a delightful offering of a new approach.  They have perfected the delicate dance and are a welcome addition on the global stage of contemporary artists.  Join the blog discussion at the Traditions Transformed.

The Rubin Museum of Art, 150  West 17th STreet, NYC is a respite from the expected and offers a glimpse of the wonders of the Himalayas.

By Keri Douglas, writer/photographer, Washington, D.C.


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