PLACE: Tibet

UMBRELLA OF EARTHLY IMMORTALS

 Rubin Museum Of Art, Earthly Immortals, Arhats in Tibetan painting, poster, woman with umbrella in front of tibetan poster, umbrella red stripe, red stripe as halo

Woman with umbrella in front of poster for Rubin Museum. Photo by Liza Cowan 2008

I just unearthed this photo from my files and thought I'd share it with you. I was on the street in New York City, watching people walk in the rain in front of this poster for the Rubin Museum. The poster was for the exhibit, Earthly Immortals, Arhats in Tibetan Painting (which I didn't see, alas.)

I waited for the right moment, and along came this woman whose umbrella seemed to match the red stripe around the Buddah. I think Picasso would have  called this a visual rhyme.


THANK YOU TARA, PROTECTOR GODDESS


Tara by liza cowan

White Tara, Reverse Painting On Glass, Copyright Liza Cowan 2004

In the excruciatingly long couple of months from the day Barack Obama became the Democratic Nominee for President Of The United States Of America to the night he was elected (yesterday)  I have posted in this blog almost exclusively about the election. I felt it was my civic duty to suspend regular programming to focus on this world changing event.

I've tried to tie my posts to art about Obama, and in so doing, discovered one of my new favorite artists, TMNK, The Me Nobody Knows. My gallery  has been filled with Obamabelia - that kind of rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? I have given away over 5,000 Obama Or Else postcards, and sold over two dozen  handmade limited edition Obama handbags by Flashbags. In the gallery I have blasted the Obama cd, Yes We Can, Voices From A Grassroots Movement, until I have every word memorized, and my customers have now come to expect to hear Obama's inspring words when they step inside the PSAW zone.

I've also kept some Tibetan White Taras around the gallery, particularly in my show window, hovering over the Obamabelia and Obama art. Why? Because I wanted to wrap Obama in the  aura of this powerful protector goddess. Call me spiritual, call me superstitious, but I felt compelled to ask Tara for her help. And, help she did. Along with all other protective deities from multitudes of religions  and spiritual practices from every corner of the globe.

Green Tara would have been a good choice as well. But I had a series of paintings of White Tara that I did several years ago, so she is the Goddess I invoked. Link here for more images and text on my Tara Paintings.

Tara, (Sanskrit, "star") is a Buddhist savior-goddess especially popular in Tibet, Nepal and Mongolia. In Tibet, where Tara is the most important deity, her name is Sgrol-ma, meaning "she who saves." The mantra of Tara (om tare tuttare ture svaha) is the second most common mantra heard in Tibet, after the mantra of Chenrezi (om mani padme hum).  

The goddess of universal compassion, Tara represents virtuous and enlightened action. It is said that her compassion for living beings is stronger than a mother's love for her children. She also brings about longevity, protects earthly travel, and guards her followers on their spiritual journey to enlightenment

According to Buddhist tradition, Tara was born out of the tears of compassion of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. It is said that he wept as he looked upon the world of suffering beings, and his tears formed a lake in which a lotus sprung up. When the lotus opened, the goddess Tara was revealed.

White Tara (Sanskrit: Sitatara; Tibetan: Sgrol-dkar) is sometimes called the Mother of all Buddhas and she represents the motherly aspect of compassion. Her white color signifies purity, wisdom and truth.

In iconography, White Tara often has seven eyes – in addition to the usual two, she has a third eye on her forehead and one on each of her hands and feet. This symbolizes her vigilance and ability to see all the suffering in the world. The "Tara of Seven Eyes" is the form of the goddess especially popular in Mongolia.

In religious practice, White Tara is believed to help her followers overcome obstacles, espeically those that inhibit the practice of religion. She is also associated with longevity.

Green Tara (Sanskrit: Syamatara; Tibetan: Sgrol-ljang), filled with youthful vigor, is a goddess of activity. She is the fiercer form of Tara, but is still a savior-goddess of compassion. She is the consort of Avalokiteshvara and considered by some to be the original Tara. Like Avalokiteshvara, the Green Tara is believed to be an emanation of the "self-born" Buddha Amitabha, and an image of Amitabha is sometimes depicted in Tara's headdress.

In Buddhist religious practice, Green Tara's primary role is savioress. She is believed to help her followers overcome dangers, fears and anxieties, and she is especially worshipped for her ability to overcome the most difficult of situations. Green Tara is intensely compassionate and acts quickly to help those who call upon her.

.http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/deities/tara.htm

So thanks and prayers to Tara, om tare tuttare ture svaha. Goddess bless Obama and all sentient beings working to make the Earth a better, safer, saner, healthier home filled with justice for all.

We now return to our reguarly scheduled programming.



HEINRICH HARRER AT BURLINGTON, VERMONT ART HOP: PINE STREET ART WORKS

Lordy. It was in the nineties and humid as the tropics. But we had over a thousand visitors to PSAW  during Art Hop to see the amazing exhibit of photographs of the last free days of Tibet, taken Heinrich Harrer at the request of the young Dalai Lama. Harrer was the author of Seven Years In Tibet. Publisher Leslie DiRusso, who came up from New York for the opening, was astounded and gratified that even in the thick crowds, even with all the other events and exhibits going on for Art Hop, people stood and read all the commentary, stayed to ask questions, and were so engaged with the work.

Dalai Lama, Heinrich Harrer, escape from tibet

Dalai Lama's Flight from Tibet. 1951. Photo by Heinrich Harrer. Used by permission.

Text for this photo, taken from writings by Harrer:

The wind springs up early across the treeless, almost lifeless, Tibetan plateau. By midday it sweeps with gale force, carrying sand or snow, stinging and cutting travelers' faces. What light there is casts a bleak twilight pall over the wastelands.

Here, second from the left, the newly invested Dalai Lama, flanked by two of his personal khenpo (abbots), staggers against the winds on the Plain of Tuna in his flight from the Chinese advance. In the foreground struggles Phala Dronyer Chenmo, the Lord Chamberlain.

[ available as a 16x20-inch individual silver gelatin photograph.]


 

My annual Art Hop guest vendor is Flashbags, our wonderful local bag and accesories manufacturer. The amazing Ali Marchildon and Laura Cheney filled my back room with their goods, which they make right here in Vermont. The biggest hit was their Obama Bag! These are made of laminated paper, individually stitched on their sewing machines, using grommets and beverage tubing for handles. Each bag has the image inside and out, and there's even a cell phone pocket.

Obama_bag_web 

Obama bag by Flashbags.

You can get these online from Flashbags, or if you are in the neighborhood, I have them in stock.


 

I also gave away almost a thousand Obama Or Else postcards to a crowd who are anxiously biting their nails to the nib over this election. It was gratifying to get such an overwhelmingly positive response to the card. I know, it's a self selecting audience in Burlington, Vermont, big surprise, not. But still. My message to them, and to everyone, is - do something every day to help elect Obama and defeat the lying liars.

Blog card with white border

Obama Or Else postcard. Design by Liza Cowan, Pine Street Art Works. 2008

I got a wonderful email about the cards on Saturday, after the opening of Art Hop.

Liza, I just had to tell you how awesome your "Obama - Or Else" card  is!  You have said it all with just a few words.  I am 71 years old and have never been so worried about the outcome of an election.  I just pray that he makes it for the sake of my grand children and the next generation.
   Thanks! Bill


I've got 5,000 more cards coming next week. I am giving these away. If you want some, send me a stamped self addressed envelope and I will send you a bunch. 10 cards = $.59 postage (I just checked at the PO) If you want to make an extra donation that's fine, but not neccesary. My address is Pine Street Art Works, 404 Pine Street Burlington, VT 05401.


HEINRICH HARRER PHOTOGRAPHS AT ART HOP

It's time once more for Art Hop, Burlington's once a year art festival. Over 600 artists will be showing work in over 100 places in Burlington's South End.
Check out the SEABA (South End Art's and Business) website for the full scoop.

Evite harrer postcard

This year Pine Street Art Works is excited to present a series of photographs by Heinrich Harrer taken in the years preceding the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1951. The prints are from The Heinrich Harrer Limited Edtion Portfolio, Leslie DiRusso,Pubisher.

From the website of The Heinrich Harrer Limited Edition Portfolio

"Heinrich Harrer, noted Austrian explorer and mountaineer, escaped over the Himalaya from a prisoner-of-war camp in British India with Peter Aufschnaiter, and then lived and worked as a fifth-ranked nobleman in the forbidden city of Lhasa. As confidant and informal tutor to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Harrer was afforded access to ceremonies and customs that had been rarely witnessed by Westerners.

" In the company of the Tibetan nobility, Harrer photographed a virtual family album of their lives and, in so doing, captured the richness and heart of a people: the moments with friends and family who had long accepted the photographer's eye. The Tibetans' joy at play, the leisure of the nobility, the splendor of the Buddhist rituals, the windswept plains of the high plateaus,Harrer's photographs document this with a mountaineer's sense of scale and an explorer's sensitivity to culture.

"Harrer left Lhasa in advance of the Chinese army in December 1950. Harrer's memoir, Seven Years in Tibet, has been translated into 53 languages, with more than four million copies sold. In October 1997, a motion picture based on his book, starring Brad Pitt as young Heinrich Harrer, was released by Tristar to major box-office success. Seven Years in Tibet, the book, again soared on best-seller lists around the world.

Harrer's body of work spanned more than six decades of exploration on six continents. Harrer received numerous honors, including the Eiger Gold Medal, Gold Humboldt Medal and the Explorers Club Medal, for his many expeditions and explorations, which number more than 600. He wrote 23 books and received credit on more than 40 film productions.

"Heinrich Harrer probably didn't realize it at the time, but his photographs captured a culture that has now all but vanished. His photographs are significant because he was actually shooting for the Dalai Lama, documenting Lhasa so the Dalai Lama could see what life was like outside the Potala. That gave Harrer unique access to ceremonies and scenes of everyday life that no other Westerner has ever had.

It's really miraculous that these photographs exist at all. Heinrich Harrer discovered a can of unexposed 35mm movie film and bought a used camera from a Tibetan friend. He didn't have a light meter, but he had five years to study the city and its people."

In October 2002, His Holiness the Dalai Lama presented Harrer with the International Campaign for Tibet's Light of Truth Award to honor Harrer's humanitarian effort to bring the situation in Tibet to international attention.

Heinrich Harrer and the exiled Dalai Lama remained steadfast friends until Harrer's death on January 7, 2006. "

Leslie DiRusso, Publisher

Evite harrer LIFE
Heinrich Harrer Photograph, LIFE Magazine, April 23, 1951

Harrer's Nazi Past

At the time that the film Seven Years In Tibet was being made, the German Magazine Stern came out with an article disclosing that Harrer had been a member of the Nazi Party in Austria. Google it, it's all over the place.

As a curator, an ethical person and a Jew, I had to think a lot about this information. To say that I spent many a restless night would be an understatement. My decision to exhibit the pictures is based on a couple of ideas.

These photographs are do not exist in the realm of fine art. That is, they are not a statement Harrer is making about himself or his beliefs, but about the subject he was shooting. They are documentary images, meant for that purpose. (I understand the complexities of documentary photography, but perhaps another time...) They were taken at the request of The Dalai Lama and document a moment in history that is not only crucial in the history of Tibet and China, but of which there is almost no other visual documentation.

A close reading of Seven Years In Tibet (which I loved, by the way, it's a great read) did not convince me of any racial, political or eugenicist motivation, at least as far as Tibet is concerned. We don't know what Harrer thought about Jews, Gypsies or Homosexuals - the usual victims of Nazi Terror. He claims to have joined the Nazi Party to be able to secure a position on a state funded climb, and to teach skiing. He claims he only put on the Nazi uniform once, to get married.

On this subject Orville Schell said ''There are not that many moments in life when to claim to be a craven careerist of the most calculating sort is a step up from ignominy.'' At any rate, Harrer was in a Prisoner Of War Camp during the war and what he did politically before the war we don't know. After his time in Tibet he dedicated much of his time to helping the Tibetan cause. He was vetted by Simon Wiesenthal, came out OK, and that's good.


"We must look at these photographs and remember that China invaded Tibet in 1950 and since then has systematically destroyed the indigenous cultural and religious practices. We must remember that Tibetan culture now exists primarily in exile. We must acknowledge the haunting nature of images of a culture now erased. We must realize that imperial nations destroy and create. After all, it was the imperial agenda of the Nazis, one that sent a young SS officer named Heinrich Harrer to India in the first place. And we must acknowledge the imperial and expansionist nation that we too live in, a country that is destroying Iraq even while it produces beautiful and haunting images of this destruction. We must remember for that is what Harrer's photographs insist we do. We must remember Empire and be moved by Art. "


Laurie Essig, Professor Of Sociology, Middlebury College, written for PSAW