Wednesday, July 06, 2005


The first Tuesday of each month features free admission to the Asian Art Museum, called "Target Tuesdays," presumably after the sponsoring retail chain. As you can see, it's quite popular. Since the museum receives a large chunk of city tax dollars every year, the fact that there is only one day a month for the peasants to enter without paying is actually rather grotesque, particularly since it's a weekday which eliminates the 9-5 working poor.

In the beautiful, unaltered old main library room which is now called Samsung Hall, there are often performances, art-making activities, and chances to interact with various masters.

Currently there are a group of Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala over the course of eight days.

When the Asian Art Museum was in an annex to the old deYoung in Golden Gate Park, there was an interesting incident during the creation of another sand mandala by Tibetan monks. I tried Googling to find an article about it, without luck, so this is from my memory. The monks had almost completed the gorgeous mandala over a painstaking two-week process, which everyone loved watching, when a crazy person charged the mandala, saying it was a "work of Satan," and she destroyed it.

The city's inhabitants and the museum officials were outraged and wanted to immediately punish the character, but the Tibetan monks refused to press charges.

In fact, they prayed for the woman, while explaining to everyone that the mandala was MEANT to be destroyed, and they started their work all over again from scratch. Two weeks later, when it was done, they ritually destroyed it themselves before putting the sand into the Pacific Ocean.

This is the fourth stop for the "Treasures of Tibet" show, and it's been dogged by extreme controversy from ethnic Tibetans, particularly when the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana refused to let the mandala makers there put up pictures of the Dalai Lama. Thankfully, that hasn't been an issue here.

Speaking of impermanence, the Hayes Green public art temple pagoda by David Best continues to evolve. I've written about it before here, here, here and here.

People are expressing a longing for the structure to be permanent, but chunks of it are already falling apart and are being held together by wire.

The graffiti is also becoming less elegant, but that's part of the reality of the structure too.

Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man, made a wonderful speech at the official opening about what he hoped the structure would incubate. He noted that most public art took years to get put up, usually because of bureaucratic hoops, and that it tended to be extremely expensive as the sponsors usually commissioned "famous" artists from elsewhere in the art world.

Harvey's vision was for temporary, inexpensive, interesting pieces of art by local artists, blooming all over the city. "And if somebody likes the art, they can actually buy some from the artist, and if that happens, this city could become an artistic center like we've never seen."

Let us acknowledge impermanence and let a hundred sculptures bloom.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog! I remember the last incident with the mandala, too. Just after it happened I was at the museum and eavesdropped on Robert Thurman (Uma's dad and well-known scholar of Tibet) telling some people about it.

He said that the person who destroyed the mandala was a woman who had a particular fixation on Tibetians. She had already vandalized a Tibetan store in the Haight several times.

I remember feeling ashamed by the violence and insensitivity of this country (in reality, there are irrational people everywhere). The graciousness of the monks was a good lesson.

sfmike said...

Thanks, anonymous, for the compliment and also for the amplification on the crazy mandala destroyer. I'm going to go back and change the gender.

jedwards said...

Anonymous and sfmike: lets not make assumptions about the mandala destroyer. our streets are filled with people who have mental problems that cannot be treated because they have no place to go. this, thanks to "the most popular american"(sic) reagan who stopped funding mental programs years ago. She may have mental problems, or substance abuse or maybe she is a fundamentalist christian with a limited view of the world. it really doesnt matter. We have become a country of violence, yes, and our intolerance for our fellow man - even if we disagree with their views- is the root cause, IMHO. the monks themselves prayed for her, a simple and kind act.

sfmike: i have not yet made it to thursdays at the fed bldg but i will, and when i do i will find you to say hello.

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I see far more goodness, beauty. All the best to you, friend.

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