Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Art of Devotion

A review of Tendrel—An Exhibition by Artists Who Are Inspired by the Lifework of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

Harsha Menon

Tendrel Opening at Tibet House

On 15th street in Manhattan a woman stands stooped over a circular mirror on the ground. She places flower petals around the mirror; a mandala is taking shape on the floor of the Tibet House gallery. Chrysanne Stathacos is building a rose mandala as part of the art exhibition, Tendrel Interconnections.

Tendrel is a group exhibition by artists who are linked to, and inspired by the life work of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.  Jetsunma is the founder of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in North India and spiritual advisor of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Initiatives (DGLI) which is a charity founded to help female monastic communities. Jetsunma is also the president of Sakyadhita International.

Rose Mandala by Chrysanne Stathacos

The Rose Mandala by Chrysanne Stathacos symbolizes the impermanence of even an object of beauty, wherein a delicately and laboriously laid out pattern of exquisite rose petals is erased after a while. The Rose Mandala could also be said to represent the potential for the transformation of the profane into profound imagery reflective of the transformation of ordinary and mundane human beings into dedicated strivers (sramanikas). This could be analogous to the charitable mission of DGLI which is dedicated to the transforming ordinary young women into dedicated monastics.

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
at Tendrel Opening
Chrysanne Stathacos is both the organizer of the art exhibition Tendrel as well as one of the participating artists. She is also the co-executive director, along with artist Caterina De Re, of Dongyu Gatsal Ling Initiatives. Other artists participating include Peter Aronson, Diane Barker, Mary DeVincentis, Tsunma Jamyang Donma/Yulokod Studios, Maxine Henryson, Heather Kessinger, and Kate Temple. Some of the artists in Tendrel have donated proceeds from the sale of their works in this exhibit to Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery and Tibet House.

Caterina De Re worked as an English teacher to some of the first nuns coming to Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery from Ladahk, North India. In Tendrel she exhibits stunning ethnographic photographs of rarely captured Tibetan yogis, yoginis, and pilgrims taken from her Tibetan pilgrimages. Her work comments on the intergenerational changes taking place in Tibet.

Tendrel Interconnections Art Exhibit

Another Tendrel artist is Tsunma Jamyang Donma, a Canadian female monastic. Tsunma Jamyang Donma trained in traditional stain glass artistry. Later she became fascinated by traditional Tibetan Thangka painting and studied it for ten years. A goal in her work is to give people a direct experience with the sacred through light. Tsunma Jamyang Donma was also asked by Jetsunma to make windows for the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery temple.

Tsunma Jamyang Donma and Jetsunma
At the opening of Tendrel on Jan 9th Jetsunma took the opportunity to speak about the plight of the Tibetan nomads as exemplified in the photographs of Diane Barker. Diane has been going to Tibet and photographing the nomads for over fifteen years. Her goal is to place these images on a database and then give the database to a museum so that the Tibetan people have a photographic history of this rapidly changing population.

Jetsunma and Painter Mary DeVincentis
The extraordinary artwork in Tendrel Interconnections stems from varied mediums, countries, and practices. While the artists use different disciplines, it can be said that all their work stems from the same beautiful place, the place of devotion.

Tendrel Interconnections is on exhibit until March 1st at Tibet House in New York.

Please read more about the exhibition and each artist here: http://www.tibethouse.us/art-gallery/current-exhibition

Harsha Menon is a writer and documentary filmmaker.
Photos by Caterina De Re.

1 comment:

  1. If you will be putting together another exhibit in the future, I would love to contribute some of my textile work. Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo has been a great teacher for me and I would love to give a gift of the work from my hands and heart/mind.