Forms of Awakening: Selections from the Jack Shear Collection of Himalayan Art presents over twenty-five thangka that demonstrate the multivalent and critical roles of Himalayan artists in the practice of Buddhism. Traditional Tibetan paintings—thangka—are used as instructional and devotional objects, with Buddhist imagery painted on cloth and typically covered by a curtain of fabric and rolled for storage when not in use. In an ongoing practice that dates back many centuries, thangka paintings have been displayed during rituals and at certain times of year in monasteries, local shrines, and households, as objects of veneration, tokens of blessing, guides for meditation, and tools for teaching and learning.
In Tibetan Buddhist thought, one’s ordinary perceptions of the world and one’s self-centered existence are a mirage that gives rise to desire, delusion, and hatred. For centuries, Tibetan artists have depicted other ways of seeing the world—forms of awakening from this dreamlike illusion. In the most abstract sense, awakening is without form and without limit; however, with pure perception, the awakened nature may be recognized in images of buddha bodies, in forms of sacred architecture, and in the mountains and valleys of the Himalaya. This exhibition is organized into three sections to highlight these aspects of the awakened nature: the body, architecture, and the landscape.
Contemporary artists of Tibetan heritage also engage with the body, architecture, and the landscape as sites for transforming perception and waking up to elements of reality unnoticed in our everyday lives. The exhibition features works by Tenzin Phuntsog, Palden Weinreb, and Nyema Droma, who work within, beyond, and in dialogue with traditional forms and themes.
Forms of Awakening: Selections from the Jack Shear Collection of Himalayan Art celebrates the recent shared gift by Jack Shear to The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, The Williams College Museum of Art, and the Frances Lehman Loeb Center at Vassar College of over sixty Himalayan art works.
Works from the gift have been presented in two recent exhibitions, Mastery and Merit: Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection at the Frances Lehman Loeb Center, and Across Shared Waters: Contemporary Artists in Dialogue with Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection at The Williams College Museum of Art. Find more information and exhibition images below.