An otherworldly experience

Human figures amid swirling geometrics.  Shields and spears and a looping tail whip.  Crouched men and women staring into -- and from -- eternity.  Colorful bursts of patterns conjuring at once life's unbridled power and our fear-based need to appease and control it.  Empty masks and the steadying touch of a woman's hand on a man's shoulder. My mind was spinning at "East … Continue reading An otherworldly experience

Some 20 years ago when we visited a temple in South India, a brahmin led us into a small side shrine with a large statue of Shiva as Nataraja.  The only light was the oil lamp he carried with a single flame.  Anyone familiar with 'aarthi' will know what I mean.  Basically, the priest draws circles … Continue reading

Peering inside Myanmar’s earliest stupas

This time-worn cover of a relic chamber is another mesmerizing work on display At the Met in "Lost Kingdoms."   It was found inside a stupa at Sri Ksetra, a 1,500-year old site we visited in 2012.  It is in ruinous state, so much so the World Monuments Fund added it to its endangered list.  But it has … Continue reading Peering inside Myanmar’s earliest stupas

Of petition, prayer and poetry

A while back, my brother-in-law saw a photograph I had taken in China and asked to see more.  Now what you need to know about Robert Lawrence, aka Bob, is that he writes poetry and plays, translates ancient Greek and delves into theology--on his own, art for art's sake.  When he mentioned that some of … Continue reading Of petition, prayer and poetry

A constellation of yogas

So many yogas, so little time…  and so few words.  In my WSJ review of "Yoga: The Art of Transformation" at the Smithsonian's Sackler, I did not have the space to single out an 8th-century ivory carving from Kashmir.  Less than five inches tall, it draws you into the story of the Buddha as he adopts,  then rejects … Continue reading A constellation of yogas

Frames rule

Slap a piece of wood around a painting, and you've created a border  -- a signal that the viewer is leaving one kind of space and moving into another.  Carve and gild that border and you're declaring that what is inside is special, very special. And sometimes the frame itself can grow so exuberant, so … Continue reading Frames rule

Crossing over

The whole notion of thresholds and borders between the sacred and profane got me to thinking about facades of churches and how they signal this border/threshold and perhaps none more loudly than baroque facades designed with Counter-Reformation zeal in the Italian town of Lecce. Talk about a border teeming with life forms... At first glance, … Continue reading Crossing over

Borders

One reader commented... "And the “borderland” is often the richest, most productive and releaving place to be. In ecology, scientists study and celebrate the “edge” — the edge between sea and land, between fresh and salt water, between one climatic zone and another. There they find not only an incubator for distinctive forms of life … Continue reading Borders

What lies behind gilt… in Myanmar

Whether it is a temple or a stupa or one of the  many (many!) gilded Buddhas in Myanmar, it is hard to believe that they started off  looking something like this -- Now,  I'm not too crazy about gilt (no matter the spelling), but these gleaming domes and statues took on a different glow once … Continue reading What lies behind gilt… in Myanmar