Our art guru shares a peek inside new work coming to the Cincinnati Art Museum that truly draws a line in the sand.
A group of Tibetan monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery, a Buddhist monastery in South India founded in 1416, will visit the Cincinnati Art Museum to create a sacred sand mandala in the museum’s Great Hall from November 13–18.
Admission to the museum and access to view the work is free and people of all ages are encouraged to attend this remarkable program.
Visitors will be able to view the sand mandala creation from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. daily, and until 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 15. An opening ceremony will take place on Tuesday, November 13 at 11 a.m., and a closing and dissolution ceremony will be held on Sunday, November 18 at 2 p.m. A special REC Reads program will feature stories and art-making related to the mandala project on Wednesday, November 14 at 11:30 a.m. in the Rosenthal Education Center.
Sand painting is an ancient Tibetan art form constructed as vehicle to generate compassion. Eight monks will lay millions of grains of colored sand into place to create intricate designs over the course of six days, forming a diagram of the enlightened mind and the ideal world.
The sand, colored with vegetable dyes or opaque tempera, is poured onto the mandala platform with a narrow metal funnel called a “chakpur“. The chakpur is scraped by another metal rod causing a vibration by which grains of sand trickle out. The two chakpurs are said to symbolize the union of wisdom and compassion.
The visit is part of a tour throughout the U.S. to share Tibetan Buddhism and demonstrate the artistic accomplishments of the people of Tibet. In addition, they hope to raise money to ensure the survival of the Tibetan culture. Proceeds from the sale of crafts and jewelry at tour stops are used to house, feed and educate the monks and surrounding community, including orphans and refugees.
This is the third time these monks have created a sand mandala at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Other Cincinnati visits have resulted in sand creations at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County and at Mount St. Joseph University.
In general, all mandalas have outer, inner and secret meaning. On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level, they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into the enlightened mind; and on the secret level, they predict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind.
The creation of a sand painting is said to affect purification and healing on these three levels. When finished, to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists, the colored sands are swept up and poured into a nearby river or stream where the waters carry healing energies throughout the world.
The mandala is an ancient art form of Tibetan Buddhism. The term mandala means “world harmony” and the three-dimensional artworks are carefully constructed from dyed sand particles to represent the traditions of Buddhism.
Visitors can continue the celebration of Asian culture in special exhibition The Fabric of India, on view through January 6, 2019 in the Western & Southern Galleries on the museum’s second floor. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Visitor Services Desk. Collecting Calligraphy: Arts of the Islamic World is on view in the Manuel D. and Rhoda Mayerson Gallery and Sara M. and Michelle Vance Waddell Gallery (G124 and 125), across from the museum’s Terrace Café. Free admission.