2006-08-18 / Columnists

From The Artists Studio

Indaculture Returns And The Rubin Museum Rockaway Artists Alliance
by Susan Hartenstein Free Summer Moons Concerts:

Indaculture Returns And The Rubin Museum
Rockaway Artists Alliance

by Susan Hartenstein
Free Summer Moons Concerts:

Every Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in Fort Tilden through August 24 on the outdoor Rockaway Moon Stage between sTudio 6 and sTudio 7 Galleries. (Inside sTudio 7 if it rains.) BYO blankets, chairs, coolers, family and friends. For information please call (718) 474-0861, e-mail rockart116@ aol.com or visit www. rockawayartistsalliance.org.

August 17: Indaculture returns for Rockaway's roots, rock and reggae.

Thanks to The Jubilees, Marty Tisch and The Kings for their concert on August 10.

Save the date: ARTSPLASH begins September 9. Opening reception: Sunday, September 10. An afternoon of great entertainment.

Stay tuned.

Camp kidsmART extends many thanks to: photographer John Grillo for his dedicated work recording the activities and people in this exceptional season of 2006; Maryann McEvoy who joined John as judges of the recent Color Clash Competition; the Cantanese family for their donation of ice cream to the entire camp.

The Rubin Museum of Art is a very special experience that merits more than one visit. The museum houses an extensive collection of art from the Himalayas and surrounding areas. It is an invaluable resource for exploring centuries of the artistic and spiritual life of this region. Whether you are familiar with the subject or a neophyte, your vision will be enriched by the Rubin Museum.

From the moment one comes through the door one is instantly aware of entering a world of serenity and beauty. Everything about the design and staff one encounters contribute to this sense. The "guard" at the entrance was welcoming and soft-spoken. The lobby is large and spacious, the floor and walls of a light-colored wood. The caf to the left is subtly and conveniently laid out, as are its wood-grained tables and chairs. The staff in the small shop and at the admissions desk follow the same pattern of helpfulness and calm, though not unnaturally so, set at the entrance. The large photos and slides in the lobby are colorful and visually stimulating, without being splashy; their tempo set at an unhurried pace. They are a perfect introduction for what is to come.

The museum presents changing exhibitions as well as a permanent collection, which feeds its second floor exhibit. The artwork displayed in this exhibit is changed periodically. I suggest you visit the second floor before exploring the other exhibits. It provides an excellent introduction to the origins, nature and characteristics of Himalayan art. I began here and found it difficult to pull myself away. At each turn, there was a new and fascinating aspect about which to learn. Thanks to excellent blurbs, wall texts and guides, one comes quickly to see this as an approachable opportunity to explore a most fascinating realm of experience and spirituality. I encourage you to take a guided tour. My tour guide was Emma Stein. She was enthusiastic, energetic, very knowledgeable and made the art and its background interesting and understandable. The images may be different than those in western art, but the philosophies are often universal and certainly within the realm of human thought.

Art of the Himalayas was (is) largely made in the service of religions that include Buddhism, Hinduism, Bon and tribal belief systems. Most of the works of art were originally used to teach, to inspire, to organize society, for the performance of rituals and to provide spiritual fulfillment. The artists are usually lay persons trained in workshops following prescribed guidelines, handed down through generations in families of artists.

These traditions also allow for individual interpretation and variety. The artisans are very aware of the sacred functions they fulfill. A portion of the second floor is dedicated to revealing the techniques used and includes a short video. On certain days you may see an artist actually working on such a piece of art.

Himalayan art challenges our usual habits of thinking. The images may be portraits of historic people. Lively paintings may tell stories. Spiritual teachings may be personified in forms simultaneously tangible and symbolic. The meditative world and the tangible world exist simultaneously and each is equally real. Himalayan deities may be compassionate, wrathful, peaceful or otherwise. The art that personifies these qualities and the associated events reflect and symbolize these characteristics. The visual qualities and visceral effects thereof may be energetic or serene. But the artwork presented is always beautiful. Metalwork studded with semi-precious stones; hand embroidered fabric; silk thread embroidery on silk fabric; paintings made with mineral pigments on cloth, speckled still with the dust of the hand-ground minerals. Worlds of images into which one can lose oneself and in which one can find oneself.

Holy Madness: Portraits of Tantric Siddhas is an exhibition on view through September 4. It presents artwork related to the Mahasiddhas, spiritually accomplished human beings of India who achieved enlightenment through unorthodox means. They exhibited magical powers and outlandish behavior. Displayed are extraordinary scroll paintings rendered in mineral pigments on cloth and surrounded by hand-woven silk brocade.

More about other exhibits in a later column. They include Take to the Sky: Flying Mystics in Himalayan Art , which runs through January 8, 2007. Visit: www.rmanyc.org to learn more about the extensive museum resources available to the public. Two other excellent website resources for Himalayan art are: www.himalayanart.org and www.exploreart.org . The Rubin Museum of Art is located at 150 West 17th Street in Manhattan.

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