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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
SPRING 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 79 Inside Art Ang Tsherin Sherpa ANG TSHERIN SHERPA was born in 1968 in Kathmandu and started studying traditional Tibetan thangka painting at the age of twelve under the guidance of his father, Master Urgen Dorje, a renowned thangka artist from Ngyalam, Tibet. In 1998 Tsherin Sherpa came to the U.S ., where he has worked as a thangka artist and instructor at several Buddhist centers in California. Five years ago he began focusing on nontraditional Tibetan artwork. He lives in Oakland. My work deals simultaneously with the preserva- tion and transformation of a scattered Tibetan culture. As nomadic people, we Tibetans seem to possess the ability to adapt to many different environments. As our culture merges with oth- ers, I’m curious about how we will maintain and celebrate our unique essence at the same time that it’s evolving. Entering the global landscape, it becomes painstakingly obvious to me how the Buddhist philosophy of interdependence and cause and effect play out not only within my own community but among us all. Each culture’s particular way of living always has an effect on others even if we are unaware of it. These recent personal experiences are explored through the use of my “spirits” iconography. In Tibet, it is believed that local spirits are associated with specific geographic regions, its land, and people. I’m interested to know how they continue to adapt now that their original landscape and people have changed or moved on. I picture them following the Tibetan people around the world. I have them adapting to their new environment just as the Tibetan diaspora must do as they travel and begin to set down roots in new, foreign lands. Not only will the spirits be exposed to symbols of modern culture but also to artistic techniques that are new to them. Buddhadharma: There’s a playful quality in your Spirits series. For those accustomed to traditional Tibetan art, these images may seem irreverent. Is that part of your message? Ang Tsherin Sherpa: I started working on the Spirits series a little more than a year ago. The iconography is inspired by the Buddhist dharma protectors, but it presents them in a new light. I am interested in seeing what kind of reaction the viewer will have. It’s like seeing a Buddha statue in a monastery on an altar with a butter lamp and offering bowls versus seeing it in a glass case inside the gallery of a museum, or perhaps even in somebody’s garden surrounded by artificial rocks and a water fountain. Does it still remain the venerated Buddha or will the icon begin to take a new life itself? ARTIST’S STATEMENT