Indepth Arts News: |
"The Art of Tibetan Sand Painting"
1999-07-16 until 1999-07-25
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
USA United States of America
Tibetan sand painting is one of the
world's most exquisite artistic
traditions. On Friday, July 16, in
Masterson Junior Gallery, Tibetan
Buddhist monks from Gaden Shartse
Monastery in southern India will
begin creating a sand painting that
depicts the mandala of Yamantaka,
the protector deity of their
monastery. A visual expression of
Tibetan Buddhism, mandalas
diagram such concepts as the
relationships between deities or the
origins of the universe. Mandalas
are used in meditation to visualize a
succession of perfected realms or
Mandalas are most commonly created with paint or colored sand in two or
three dimensions. To make the mandala, the mandala master first delineates
the outline by holding string that is dipped in chalk and snapping it onto a flat
surface. Then, sand is applied very precisely by tapping a metal cone that is
filled with the colored sand. This elaborate ceremony requires extensive ritual
preparation. The meticulous process of applying grains of colored sands
requires between 75 and 125 hours to complete.
Works of Tibetan art will surround visitors as they observe the mandala being
constructed in the Masterson Junior Gallery. Loaned by Houston collector
John H. Coon, the artworks will include beautiful tangkas (rich paintings on
cotton, linen, or silk), Tibetan textiles, and ritual objects used in Buddhist
ceremonies. As in all major religions, the art of the Tibetans plays a major
role in bringing religious traditions to life. Coon's collection, as well as the
gilded Bodhisattvas on display in the museum's permanent Asian collection,
will provide visitors with a further understanding of Tibet's art.
The monks will dismantle the mandala on Sunday, July 25, 1999, at 3 p.m. in
keeping with the Buddhist teaching of the impermanence of all things. The
sand will be placed in an urn and the monks will carry the urn to Buffalo
Bayou where, after rituals and prayers, it will be poured slowly into the water.
A small amount of sand will be preserved for distribution among the initiates.
However, the image of the mandala remains in the minds of the monks who
use this image to help transform their mind, body, and emotions, enabling
them ultimately to achieve enlightenment. Visitors are invited to observe this
In February 1996, crowds gathered to watch Buddhist monks from the Seraje
Monastery of Tibet perform their art of sand painting at the Museum of Fine
Arts, Houston. They created the Mandala of Hayagriva, a symbolic work of
art that represented the protector deity of the original monastery, which has
now been relocated in southern India.