The Eye of Texas
Anndala (Circle of Crap)
2004
mixed media
42 in.
Jesus was a Buddha
2004
acrylic / board
36 x 18 in.

   Mandala is the Sanskrit word for sand painting.  The paintings are never used in secular ceremonies, rather for the healing of living beings or the environment, world peace, prosperity or for transformation and enlightenment.  Sand paintings are used as tools for reconsecrating the earth and its inhabitants.  The ancient art has a traditional and prescribed iconography of geometric shapes and symbols.  All have outer, inner and secret meanings.  The mandala form is seen throughout the Himalayan and Central Asian regions, and the Native North Americans took it with them across the Bering Strait on their migration 20,000 years ago.

 

   The mandala, translated as “cosmogram” or “sacred circle,” is common in India and is used in a variety of ceremonies such as a celebration of birth, marriage or death.

 

   It takes four monks about seven days and about a million billion heavenly-colored grains of sand, ground flowers, seeds or precious gems to complete a mandala.  It is immediately swept up and poured into a body of water to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists.

 

   It took me about seven weeks and a lot of fuzzy and glittery material, paper, plastic and carbohydrates to complete The Eye of Texas, my “anndala”—or “circle of crap.”  The items have been glued, screwed, wired and stapled to symbolize the Western desire for permanence.

 

   The title spoofs an old favorite, The Eyes of Texas, a song whose catchy tune belies a perfectly horrid thought!

 

The Eyes of Texas are upon you

all the live long day.

The Eyes of Texas are upon you

you cannot get away.

Do not think you can escape them

at night or early in the morn.

The Eyes of Texas are upon you

‘til Gabriel blows his horn.

 

   This piece is not about death, but the eternal nature of junk.

   Each Tibetan prayer flag is cotton printed with text that includes various transliterated* Sanskrit mantras and Tibetan prayers for averting obstacles, and for the increase of luck and prosperity.  Such flags are traditionally placed at high mountain passes so that their prayers and good wishes will be carried on the wind to the sentient beings in all directions.

 

   An obituary is a death announcement usually published in a newspaper or other periodical.  Some pay elaborate, heart-breaking tribute to a loved one, some pay less and are the sparest of vital information.

   Obituary Flags are newspaper obituaries mounted on bandanas or hankies.

 

*transliterated:  represented (words or letters) in the characters of another alphabet.

   Pillar banners are colorful silk brocade pennants traditionally draped on the pillars inside the main assembly halls of Tibetan monasteries.  They are marked by a set of eyes symbolizing the omniscience of the Buddha.  Below are Tibetan transliterations of the three Sanskrit syllables—Om, Ah, Hum—symbolizing the body, speech and mind of the Buddha.

 

   Sympathy Banner exalts the importance of an ordinary $1.99 sympathy card.  The cross at the top symbolizes the crucifixion of Jesus and the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, Holy Ghost.  The stars represent both the Lone Star State and a state of celestial existence.  The large Tibetan-style eye can be that of God, Buddha, Big Brother, The Eye of Texas, whatever.  It weeps the blood of Christ, so central to orthodox belief, but also tears of sympathy for those lost.

 

Obituary Flags
2004
newspaper obituaries, bandanas, hankies
Sympathy Card Banner
2004
mixed media
72 x 20 in.

TheTexan

Book of the

       Dead 

Bath House Cultural Center ~ Dallas, Texas ~ 2004        

 

   The so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead (more accurately translated as “The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between) presents psychological insights into the process of death and dying according to Buddhist wisdom.  It is a kind of guidebook through the process—before, during and after.

   The Texan Book of the Dead, very simplistically, considers the mostly extreme opposite Western view of death and life, one that, even in death, seeks permanence.  In other words, clean restrooms on the road to eternal life.

   In making this show, I’ve reverently borrowed from sacred Tibetan artworks, although the results may definitely appear irreverent.  One of the works is an attempt to imitate the soft and swirly style of Tibetan tangka painting (Jesus was a Buddha).   Some use the Tibetan art form only (The Eye of Texas Anndala, Sympathy Banner, Obituary Flags) and attach Tex-Christian symbology.  Some are scenes from randomly-visited Texas cemeteries and roadside memorials (R.I.P., Very Still Life).  Some simply illuminate the drama and melodrama of the engraved word (Epitaph Lilies, Graven Images).  Some works have nothing to do with death (The Eye of Texas and Jesus was a Buddha).

   But all either relate to something Tibetan, something Texas, something sacred, or something dead.

   If you’re interested in a scholarly thesis, you’ll not find it here.  There are many places to go for such knowledge and would be well worth your effort to pursue.

   No—this is just for fun.  And I hope not too abstract.  (Sometimes my mind is like a shopping cart with a bad wheel--it will hold a lot of goodies, but it's obnoxious and unbalanced, you have to fight to control it, little things fall through the bottom, and people look at you funny.)

   That said, if you learn a thing or two from this, not only would I be surprised, I’d be overjoyed!  Or as our beloved friend, The Dalai Lama, says:

 

“It is my hope, therefore, that everyone visiting this exhibition may find in it inspiration and understanding that in some way contribute to their own inner peace.” *

 

* taken wholly out of context and used to suit my selfish purposes—he was speaking about The Mystical Arts of Tibet exhibit.

                                                                                                                                               Ann Huey ~ October 2004

 

 

   "Every culture has its distinguishing characteristics.  For Tibetans, the emphasis has for many centuries been on developing and upholding inner values such as compassion and wisdom.  These are more important for us than acquiring material wealth, fame, or success. 

  …inner strength, gentleness, love, compassion are the inner jewels symbolized in our paintings, ritual implements, and so forth.

  The Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet has resulted in tremendous suffering and the deaths of more than a million Tibetans.  The invaders have also indulged in cultural genocide.  The decade-long Cultural Revolution saw the destruction of over 90 percent of our cultural artifacts.  These included not only statues, paintings, and books, but even the buildings that housed them.

  I believe it is extremely important that we extend our understanding of each other’s sacred traditions.  This is not necessarily in order that we can adopt them ourselves, but because to do so increases our opportunities for mutual respect.  Sometimes, too, we encounter something in another tradition that helps us better appreciate something in our own.  After all, the fundamental aim of all religions is to help us to become better human beings and to create a happier, more

peaceful word."

                                

His Holiness the Dalai Lama—June 8, 1996

foreword from The Mystical Arts of Tibet

by Glenn H. Mullin and Andy Weber

 

   Tibetan sacred art is a universe of ornate and esoteric symbolism that rises above narrow, everyday ideas.

   Art objects can serve as an aid to meditation, a tangible representation of a religious vision, an object of reverence, an icon, or a teaching device.  The act of producing a religious image or even looking at such an image become forms of meditation.

   In order to correctly depict a Buddha or other deity, art objects must conform to the strict rules of iconography specific to Buddhist scripture—proportions, shape, color, posture, gestures and other attributes.

   All Tibetan religious art addresses issues of death and human mortalness.  Unlike most religious art, Christian or otherwise, wrath has no place in Buddhist teachings.  Although wrathful beings are sometimes depicted, they serve as destroyers of the “three poisons”—ignorance, anger and lust.

 

    Jesus was a Buddha is my stab at Tibetan tangka painting (pronounce “thanka”)—an image painted on a rectangular cloth, framed by a narrow cloth border.  I show Jesus as an enlightened human, the embodiment of divine wisdom and virtue, an awakened being, a buddha.

   Here, I play God with Jesus.  I chose to ally with some historic accounts that Jesus had hair the color of “new wine” and blue eyes.  I make those eyes distinctively Tibetan, however.  I depict his robe as semi-Tibetan in style, but traditionally Middle Eastern white in color.  He is classically seated in lotus position in the center of the painting.

   Surrounding Jesus are the typical and most popular Christian icons—the miracles—turning water into wine, raising Lazarus from the dead, and so on.

   Scattered among the biblical references are scenes from the native Texas landscape:  pines, peaces, beaches, birds, wildflowers, and assorted wild and domesticated life.

   It was on purpose that I chose to portray the life of Jesus, not just for personal preference, but because his life was not unlike that of the historical Buddha’s—both devoted to teaching love and compassion.

 

Graven Images
2004       
fake clay, outdoor carpet       
10 x 38 in.

   My mother started me out on a so-far lifelong interest in cemeteries.  She was a birder, an historical marker-reader, and a cemetery cruiser.  Road trips were a series of heart-gulping hard-braking stops for birds, markers and cemeteries, the variety of which proportionate to the length of the trip.  My mom considered even the dinkiest of trips an adventure on which we became explorers of the historic, the hysteric, the curious, the historically curious, and the curiously hysteric.

  We were especially charged by the extremes: the oldest grave, the gaudiest grave, the weirdest names on the grave, the most dead infant graves.  But we loved to have our hearts broken by a crudely poignant epitaph or be wowed by a well-carved stone.

   I love cemeteries because everything is there—life, death, wealth, poverty, status, taste, humor, bad grammar, drama, faith, hope, lost hope, dream and dreams deferred, and usually fire ants… always love.

   Some hide their stories—others can’t.

   What my mom would call the “tacky” graves are my favorite.  They’re colorful, imaginative and are ignorant of or indifferent to the artistically harmonious in their choice of adornment.  A toy truck, a plastic “Happy Birthday” sign, broken ceramic teddy bears, rotten photographs, crosses, Jesuses, poems, prayers, song lyrics, sports paraphernalia, kitsch and more kitsch.  And the ever-after infinity of fake post-historic flowers, some varieties of which are so unusual, they exist only in the world of plastic botany.

   But what always emerges from behind its garishly artificial face is as sincere and purely powerful as white marble.

Thanks to the folks above, and below ground, who gave me something to laugh, cry and think about.

 

Big Springs Cemetery / (Old) Frankford Cemetery - Plano, Texas

 

Garden of Memories - Elkhart, Texas

 

Greenwood Cemetery - Dallas, Texas

 

Hooks Cemetery / Old Hardin Cemetery - Kountze, Texas

 

Old Prospect Cemetery - Kountze, Texas

 

Petland Memorial Gardens - DeSoto, Texas

 

Rawlins Cemetery - Lancaster, Texas

 

Shady Grove Cemetery / Tennessee Colony Cemetery - Tennessee Colony, Texas