Friday, April 17, 2015

MFA Candidate: Lily Smith

A jewelry/metals student, Lily Smith says, “I’ve always been really interested in work that goes on the body. . . . I’ve also worked a lot with fabrics in undergrad and grad school.”

She uses the term “jewelry” loosely as work that goes on the body and talks about the body. She combines the ideas of jewelry with those of garment and fashion, finding an interest in the colliding of fields. For her piece that will be in the Georgia Museum of Art, she combines hand-dyed silks and thinned-down silicon with added pigment painted on fabric to create the textures of fleshy forms. The result is a wearable piece that recalls the feel and form of different parts of the body.

She explains her interest is not only in work that goes on the body but also is about the body. The garments she creates mimic natural forms of the human form but are exaggerated. With a skin-tone color palette and materials that resemble skin as much as worn fabrics, she makes voluptuous plump forms that hang around the figure when the piece is worn.  

“This work talks about our standards of beauty and the ideal female figure. They're like dresses but rather than accentuating a thin figure they're fatty forms with multiple breasts and bellies, celebrating the fact that maybe that can be just as beautiful as a thin more fit person. Celebrating the curves and the fat and flesh in general,” she says.

Her creations take beauty to a richly authentic level with their yearning to be seen and felt. These garments continue to evolve with her interest in the process of making as well as the intrigue of the final state. They hold the viewer captive while evoking feelings about their own personal connection to the human form.

Smith’s work will be shown at the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

MFA Candidate: Louisa Powell

Trapped in Our Maps

Louisa Powell is a sculpture candidate interested in creating structural systems that explore spaces. Often starting with a single form, she lets the work transform itself and grow according to the space. Although most of her work is site-specific, for her show at the Georgia Museum of Art she had to find a way to be more flexible, creating it outside of the installation space. The idea for this work started with a bookshelf. 

“I have since decided to remove the actual bookshelf from the equation, but my form has boundaries and cut-outs in it that reflect its relationship with the bookshelf,” explains Powell. 

She says she hopes to do a second small piece that will interact with the architecture of the hallway outside the gallery. She wants it to be an iteration of the gallery sculpture and to react to the particularities of the site in which it is installed. 

Starting out as an environmental design student and earning her undergraduate degree in this field, Powell took her love for design and moved toward a deeper exploration of form. Preferring to work with her hands over the computer, her passion for installations took root and flourished. 

Powell currently has an installation on display at Creature Comforts. Previously she showed one of her installation pieces at the Bulldog Inn show, using the room to present an expansive breadth of shapes and organic forms. 

To see her newest installation, attend the Georgia Museum of Art’s “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

MFA Candidate: Patrick Brien

Patrick Brien paints images that portray the interference of digital imagery with the subconscious. There is no way to ignore the inundation of media in day to day activities. Just the same his work has been largely impacted by our technologically driven world.
“My work is concerned with the way in which the language of technological interfaces have come to mediate and possibly alter our experience of daily life. Acting as a veil or overlay upon our normative way of seeing the world, the nomenclature of these apps, software programs and digital graphics have become nearly seamlessly integrated into our most mundane or exciting experiences," says Brien.

Brien's work reflects the digital look of technology and the images that are constantly presented to us. He is interested in the effect that so much technology has on our daily lives. With so much change he feels there is a trade off in order to make room for so much progress. 

He continues, "These technologies have made our lives better in many ways. However, I am enthralled by the trade-off that takes place in order for us to engage with these new advancements. It seems that we are now willing to give up more of our privacy, personal information and exact location at any given moment in order to get directions from mapping apps or to interact with friends and family through social media. I am curious about how these new and changing habits will continue to impact the way we look and see.”

Brien’s work will be on display in the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Hazelwood and Goodman Speak About the Issues

This year, from June 13 to September 13, visitors to the museum will have the opportunity to see an exhibition featuring the art of San Franciscans Art Hazelwood and Ronnie Goodman, entitled “Speaking to the Issues.” The exhibition will comment on multiple socioeconomic issues such as poverty, corruption and homelessness.

Some of these issues hit home especially for Goodman. A self-taught homeless artist and marathon runner, he faces some of these difficulties every day in San Francisco. He told Runner’s World that he tries “to paint those images I see in a beautiful way, even though there's a hard edge. Life can be extremely hard."

He does not let his misfortunes keep him down. Instead, he uses them to inspire change and awareness of the homeless people living in the San Francisco area. During last year’s San Francisco Half Marathon, he raised almost $10,000 for Hospitality House, an organization that helps the area’s homeless and helped Goodman pursue his artistic passion.

Hazelwood also inspires change through his art. Both he and Goodman have created works of art for Street Sheet, a San Francisco newspaper that focuses on issues of homelessness. His exhibition “Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal Era to the Present” “[draws] parallels between the response to homelessness in the Great Depression and today,” he told the Arts Politic.

“Speaking to the Issues” will feature linocuts, woodcuts, etchings and books created by the two artists, much in the style of the Mexican printmakers coalition El Taller De Gráfica Popular, which will also be on view at the museum this summer. You can read more about "Speaking to the Issues" here.

Watch Hazelwood's video below to see Goodman speak about two of his Occupy movement posters:

Monday, April 13, 2015

MFA Candidate: Joe Camoosa

Joe Camoosa paints with the need to create and express a feeling that lurks underneath the surface. He explains that there is a collective subconscious, something that can’t be found in looking at other sources of material or art. Rather, it is something that he must find within himself. He hopes viewers will be lost within the maze of color of his paintings and transcend into a world of their own, the way he has with some of his own favorite paintings.

He recalls a feeling he experienced with a specific work that really called to him, with an inexplicable need to be looked at. This experience inspired him to create that type of interaction for viewers, even when he cannot understand his own work. He aims to take them to a place where time freezes and all else is forgotten within the labyrinth of his creation.

With a variety of media, including acrylic, oil and even house paint, Camoosa is fascinated with the process of painting and how paints visually react to each other. He starts out with an abstract shape or pattern and continues adding to it as the canvas calls him. He treats his pieces as puzzles that must be solved by either adding or taking away until he is satisfied with the feeling it produces. When it is difficult to tell if a painting is really finished, he may step away and come back to it later to continue working. In the end, he leaves it up to viewers to interpret the content for themselves.

With the continuous layering of vibrant colors, his paintings create a battlefield of visual entrapment. He puts the canvas to the test to see how much it can hold as he works intuitively throughout the space. Camoosa takes full advantage of the chance to create what hasn’t been seen before, creating paintings that are fun, captivating and truly mesmerizing.

To see Camoosa’s work visit the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

MFA Candidate: Luke Underwood

Relaxed and non-aggressive aren’t normally the expressions on the faces of tough wrestlers, but what about when they aren’t in a match? Luke Underwood, a former wrestler himself, found an interest in portraying male wrestlers after practice.

“I had been shooting the action of practice, but I didn’t find it to be interesting beyond a Sports Illustrated-type photo, where it was all about the sport. I was more interested in what they wanted to show me in the slow process of the portrait. . . . They started off initially with their stances and facial expressions much more stern,” explains Underwood.  

His work over the past year has had to do with masculinity and how it is represented in photographs. Underwood has documented his contemporaries, other artists, and friends displaying the ways they may not be in the same phase of adulthood as their fathers were at the same age. Continuing to explore the idea of masculinity, he found an interest in making portraits of wrestlers. 

He says that the point of wrestling is not necessarily to be the best wrestler but rather to test yourself and persevere. It was difficult initially for the wrestlers to pose in a way that did not aim to affirm their toughness further.

“I was trying to get at the idea of showing them as something more than what they were doing as performers on the mat,” says Underwood. 

He had to balance what they were trying to get across with what he wanted to get out of them. His aim was for them to look softer than how most people would think of them. After continuing to photograph them, he says they began to grow more comfortable and their faces began to soften. As a result, the photographs carry striking truths about masculinity and self-perception. 

Underwood’s photographs will be on display at the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Friday, April 10, 2015

MFA Candidate: Jess Machacek

Jess Machacek says her work “all started with . . . noticing materials that have been made and are supposed to imitate the natural world . . . thinking about constructed nature and constructed landscapes. I started playfully pulling from the absurdities of things that are mass produced, rocks with spray paint, fake plants, and all the textures that people use to museumify our interior and exterior spaces.”

For her show at the museum, she is creating an installation derived from a greenhouse she created for her exit show at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. She took these ideas of manmade and constructed nature to create pieces that exemplify the irony of taming nature for our own satisfaction. From the greenhouse piece, she made plaster molds of the windows and created a floor with the same footprint. White astroturf, white handmade rocks, white plaster window molds and a yellow hose are all incorporated.

“So much of it is about the look and the show; my original thoughts within the greenhouse were to stage it in a way that felt like a showroom. A greenhouse is supposed to be a container for keeping things alive and for natural things, like an artificial kingdom,” explains Machacek.

There is so much that humans do to the natural world to contain it and use it for their benefit. The desire to control nature has been present throughout history and into today’s world. Harnessing the idea of the man-made, man-ufactured, and man-ipulated, she intends for her piece to come across as a set-up utilizing the showroom aesthetic.

To see Machacek’s work for yourself visit the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

MFA Candidate: Mahera Khaleque

from 'Palimpsest to Palimpsestuous'

After growing up in Bangladesh and now having spent many years in the United States, Mahera Khaleque considers herself a diasporic artist. Her state of being present and absent in two distant places is echoed in the logic and structure of her interwoven paintings. Through her art, she feels she can express the culture that is fed through her. Like a filter, she catches moments and images that stick out in her mind and transmits them into her work.

“My bi-cultural status simultaneously permits and forces me to choose one practice over another or blend them on a daily basis regardless of my physical existence in one or the other geographical location,” says Khaleque.

For her upcoming show at the Georgia Museum of Art she worked with the idea of the Palimpsest. A Palimpsest is a manuscript where the original material has been erased and written on top of, though traces of the original show through. 

To execute this idea she layered paint with her dad’s journal entries, historical writings from political figures in Bangladesh, along with other manuscripts. These woven creations are like self-portraits from her subconscious representing her worlds intermingling with the past always showing through. 

Khaleque elaborates that, “While the first reason responsible for overwriting manuscripts reminds me of urban walls occupied with overcrowded posters and writings saturated with natural erosions, the latter reminds me of deliberate efforts in erasing as well as re-writing history throughout the historical timeline.” 

She is inspired by the additive and reductive process of creating and how history can be written and rewritten and covered over to allow for more. People are surprised to find that she works not on canvas but on cardboard. This material gives her art a raw, authentic feel, just like the collage work she creates.

“Depending on my physical existence in one geographical location, some cultural practices from one culture become more dominant over others. Very often I find myself blending them subconsciously in my work as well as regular interactions with my surrounding,” she explains. 

Khaleque tries to convey a sense of absence and loss through her paintings, which comes across in the way the layers may be peeled away to show what remains of the past. Her images show how culture can be seen through individual experience.

To experience these paintings, visit the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

MFA Candidate: Anna Gay Leavitt

Fields of Relics and Electricity 

Sherman's March

Having grown up in Georgia, Anna Gay Leavitt has always had an interest in the region’s history. She expresses her connection to the land and curiosity for stories that lie just beneath her feet through the medium of photography. 

Leavitt believes that photography is captivating in the way it deals with time. An image can be preserved and kept as a symbol of a moment, a moment that may have otherwise been forgotten. This physical representation of a memory carries different feelings that are entirely dependent upon our own perception. When a single instance becomes tangible it gains the power to transcend time. 

“As humans, we want so badly to stop time and to hold onto our generally inaccurate memories that we have engineered a process which shows a unique moment in fractions of a second, often represented in a way which is far from truthful,” says Leavitt.

With this mindset, she captures figures immersed in ambiguous environments, longing to last yet fading out. They appear frozen in time and convey a certain nostalgia evocative of the past. Intertwined with the land in a ghostly manner, it is clear they have a connection to the home surrounding them. 

“My current work seeks to explore our relationship to the landscape, the physical earth itself, which surrounds those of us living in this region. Throughout my life, I have contemplated the fact that, at times, I am standing exactly where someone else stood thousands of years before my existence,” explains Leavitt. 

Within the ephemeral scenes, viewers are made aware of their own connection to the past with a feeling of timelessness. Like photography, the land has a permanence that can carry itself through time and uniquely connect with the beholder. Leavitt expresses both a broad collective experience and personal reflection through her photography. 

“These images reference a shared history, but are part of my own personal folklore,” says Leavitt. 

Her photography will be on display at the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

MFA Candidate: Allan Innman

Voyage of the Ancient Sea Legs, oil on canvas

Allan Innman has been painting a series he entitles “Flights of Fancy” that is based on childhood make-believe. In previous work, he painted still-lifes of childhood objects, submerging them in surreal environments where they could interact and be brought to life. 

“I think they wanted to come to life then. I just didn’t give them the permission to. Now, I try to put them in their own world where they exist by themselves. Hopefully they are taking on a new life,” says Innman about his transition into more dreamlike scenarios. 

He says that a lot of it is about trying to imagine himself as a 5- or 6-year-old again. With childhood innocence and make-believe, there are no limits. Any objects can become toys. A lot of the toys he paints are his, but he finds others at places like the J & J Flea Market. 

“I start out with a visual collage or a photograph, and I paint it. While I’m painting, a lot of times my idea completely changes. It’s a lot of documenting, dropping back into Photoshop and collaging on top of that,” says Innman. 

In the laboratory of his studio, these toys come to life, immersed in a fantasy of bright, dreamy colors. Large canvases allow viewers to get lost within the nostalgic yet unfamiliar world he creates.

Innman’s paintings will be shown at the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

MFA Candidate: Andrew Indelicato


Andrew Indelicato creates digital paintings filled with 1980s nostalgia and visual reminiscences of video game images. He uses photoshop to create vibrant prints that reference early computer graphics, neon, glitching, and computer manipulation. He makes gifs and is interested in new media, net art, and cross-platforming.

Colliding color fields with overlapping patterns make his prints bright and compelling. To create these images he seeks inspiration from grids. The idea of the grid is prevalent as a visual component for his work as well as a structural guideline. Whether or not it is shown, he says that it still plays a role in guiding his process.

“When the grid is integrated, it becomes a protagonist, and in other other imagery it is used as a launchpoint. It gives me a set of rules and a structure that I can manipulate from,” he explains.

Music is another influential component of Indelicato’s work. He listens to electronic music and lets it guide him through the development. The music and the repetition of the beat help him determine where to lay certain colors. As a result, his work appears very rhythmic and filled with patterns. 

In order to achieve even more visual vibrancy, he suspends neon over his prints. In his upcoming show he will be installing a six foot tube of turquoise neon over two ten foot prints.  The display will integrate new technology while using two different types of media.

“I have a lot of neon.… It makes everything ‘sexy,’ changes the saturation of the colors, and with nice paper the neon bounces off of the paper,” he says.

Indelicato’s prints will be on display at the “Master of Fine Arts Degree Candidates Exhibition” at the Georgia Museum of Art from April 11 to May 3, 2015.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Behind “Behind Photographs”

Some photographs still strike us, years after they were taken. The photograph called “Afghan Girl,” published in National Geographic in 1985, is considered the magazine’s most famous image. The photos taken by John Lennon’s personal photographer, including the iconic image of the Beatle wearing a New York City t-shirt, “present a kaleidoscope of John Lennon's New York Period” that is “beautiful, clear and truthful,” according to Yoko Ono.

But how often does the layperson think about the photographer rather than the person in some of these famous photos?
Steve McCurry holds his photograph, "Afghan Girl."
"I looked for this girl for 17 years and finally found her in 2002. Her name is Sharbat Gula."
Bob Gruen holds his iconic photograph of John Lennon against the NYC skyline.
"John Lennon asked me to come to his penthouse apt [sic] on the east side of New York to take pictures for the cover of his 'Walls + Bridges' album. After we took a series of portraits for the record cover we took some informal shots to use for publicity. I asked him if he still had the New York City t-shirt I had given him a year earlier and he went and put it on and we made this photo."
Photographer Tim Mantoani’s mission is to give a voice to “each face, in each place,” including those normally behind the lens. From 2006 to 2011, Mantoani traveled across the United States to capture images of photographers. He rented a rare 20x24 Polaroid camera and a 20x24 Wisner camera with a Polaroid back to take the photographs. In each Polaroid, the photographer is holding his or her most famous or favorite image. Over 5 years, Mantoani took pictures of more than 150 photographers, published in the book “Behind Photographs” in 2012.

At the bottom of each Polaroid, Mantoani had the photographer write a short paragraph about the image he or she chose. Some photographers wrote simple descriptions, such as Douglas Kirkland’s “This is from my evening with Marilyn.”

Others, like Mary Ellen Mark, wrote more detailed paragraphs:

I am holding my photograph of Ram Prakash Singh with his beloved elephant Shyama—taken in 1990. Ram Prakash Singh was the ringmaster of the “The Great Golden Circus”—The photograph was done in Ahmedabad India—This was part of my Indian Circus Project—I love India and I love the circus so photographing eighteen circuses all around India was an incredible experience—Unfortunately Shyama died a few months after this photograph was taken—supposedly he succumbed to a poisoned chapatti—Ram Prakash Singh was heartbroken—me also.

With these Polaroids, Mantoani has managed to preserve the stories behind these images. The photographers cannot live forever, but their work can. Life magazine photographer John Dominis died in December 2013. Thanks to Mantoani’s project, the story behind his photograph of two resting lions will remain for generations to come.
John Dominis holds his photograph of two resting lions.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Selfie Museum

The "selfie" is now so popular that the term has even been added to the dictionary, and there are tools available to improve your "selfie game," such as the selfie stick. Many museums and tourist attractions worldwide have banned selfie sticks in order to protect paintings, individual privacy and overall visitor experience (for example, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Palace of Versailles, the Colosseum in Rome, the Smithsonian Museums and many more). 

One museum in Manila, Philippines, is approaching the selfie stick differently. Art in Island lets visitors interact with the art by touching it and taking as many pictures as they want. As its Facebook page says, "Whenever you visit an art museum, you are always expected to just look around quietly.  You are not allowed to touch anything nor take pictures. You don't even have a single proof of being there. Art in Island allows visitors to interact and have fun with the art pieces. You can take as much pictures and videos you want! Here in Art in Island, we want you to BE PART OF THE ART." As this museum is the first of its kind, it is being called the "world's first selfie museum."

Here are some examples of the visitors' pictures.

Photo by: Art in Island
Photo by: Art in Island
Photo by: Art in Island
Photo by: Art in Island 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Nellie Mae Rowe: Making Something Out of Nothing

Photo Credit: Souls Grow Deep Foundation
Nellie Mae Rowe was known for creating imaginative works of art. Her sculptures made of found objects and drawings were inspired by her faith in God, by current events and by African American narrative traditions.

Rowe was born in 1900 in Fayetteville, Ga., but lived in Vinings. Her father had previously been enslaved, and her mother was born after emancipation. Both of Rowe’s parents were creative. Her mother was an expert quilter, and her father was a basket weaver. They both encouraged Rowe in her art. When she was a child, she would lie down on the floor and draw every chance she got.

She did not always have supporters as encouraging as her parents. After her second husband died, in 1948, people would tear Rowe’s fence down, throw things at her house and destroy her property. She told Maude Wahlman and Judith Alexander in the early 1980s that she would make “old weavings . . . make the eyes on them, make the big popeyes. They thought I was a hoodoo or something like that. I put up wig heads. I put the wig on them and sometimes have a shawl hanging on it. From here look like a person sit up in the tree.”

After she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1981, Rowe increased her art output. She believed that she had been given this artistic talent by God, and she wanted to prove to Jesus that she was worthy of it. She considered her art to be a connection to and a way to honor God. She would draw people and ask the Lord to help them. Drawing, for her, was almost akin to praying.

Rowe was also inspired by current events. Between 1979 and 1981, more than 20 Atlanta-area children were sexually molested and murdered, allegedly by Wayne Williams. Rowe created several drawings on the subject because she believed they would protect the children. Her 1981 work “Atlanta’s Missing Children” features five charms and the color blue, traditionally used to ward off evil spirits in the homes of southern African Americans.

Her work was featured in a gallery for the first time in 1976, in the Atlanta History Center’s exhibition “Missing Pieces: Georgia Folk Art 1770–1976.” Her first solo exhibition was held two years later at the Alexander Gallery in Atlanta. She quickly garnered national recognition. Her first exhibition outside of Georgia was at the Parsons/Dreyfuss Gallery in New York City.

Rowe primarily used simple materials to create her art, like crayons and found objects. She told Wahlman and Alexander that she “[took] nothing, you know, [took] nothing and [made] something out of it.”

Rowe’s drawing “Foot with Deer” is part of the Georgia Museum of Art’s permanent collection. The museum also owns “Flower,” a crayon piece, and “Doll,” which is made from cloth, thread and found objects.

Currently, these works are not on display in the museum’s permanent collection galleries, partially because their fragile materials cannot be exposed to light for long periods. Many of Rowe’s works can also be found at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, which owns more than 100 of her drawings.

Friday, March 06, 2015

1WTC Art

One hundred and seven floors may be empty right now at One World Trade Center, but that doesn't include the walls already filled with art. After the 13-year construction, it's no surprise that the featured art would be carefully considered.  The five American artists were only given one guideline: that the work must be unifying. The artists were picked by consultant Asher Edelman, who said, "The mission was to get people to turn their phones off and look up. It had to be a wake-up call. But not about the building; about itself."

The showpiece is a massive 14.5-by-90-foot mural titled "Union of the Senses" created by Jose Parla.  
Jose Parla 
Below are the other works displayed that provide a playful counterbalance to the building's light-filled spaces, high ceilings and white marble. With the observation deck opening this spring, it is expected that 20,000 people will see the art daily. That's more visitors than the Metropolitan Museum of Art receives. 

Bryan Hunt, "Axis Mundi"
Fritz Bultman, "Gravity of Nightfall"
Fritz Bultman, "Intrusion into the Blue"
Greg Goldberg, "One World Trade Center Series"
Doug Argue, "Isotopic"
Doug Argue, "Randomly Placed Exact Percentages"

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Tibetan Mandala Sand Painting

If you’ve been binge-watching season three Netflix’s original series “House of Cards” like I have, you may have seen a really cool work of art in one of the episodes of this highly anticipated season. In episode seven, “Chapter 33,” the White House is participating in a cultural exchange with Tibet. Four Tibetan monks are working on a month-long sand painting using colored sand to create a detailed, intricate work of art. Later in the episode, when the monks are finished, they hold a ceremony. They chant and play special instruments, then brush all the sand together and put it in a container. They then take the sand to a river and pour it into the water.
Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) observes the Tibetan monks at work.
This art process is not something the creators of the show made up for our viewing pleasure. Mandala sand painting is a Tibetan Buddhist art form that has been practiced for thousands of years. In Tibetan, this art form is called dul-tson-kyil-khor, which means “mandala of colored powders.” “Mandala” is Sanskrit for “world in harmony.”

Mandalas can have different meanings. They are meant to guide an individual down the path to enlightenment. Each mandala teaches a different lesson and offers a different blessing. When monks meditate upon a mandala, they imagine it as a three-dimensional palace. Each object in the palace represents a guiding principle or aspect of wisdom.

The colored sand used in the creation of these mandalas is usually ground from colored stone. Sometimes, flowers, grains or herbs are used. In ancient times, monks would sometimes use precious gems, such as rubies for red powder.

The first step in the creation of the mandala is an opening ceremony. Monks chant, play music and recite mantras for 30 minutes. This ceremony is usually open to outsiders. For the ceremony the monks need:

  • Mandala base (5 x 5 foot plywood board no less than 1 inch thick and painted dark blue),
  • One table for the altar that is the standard height of about 49 ¾ inches and a minimum length of 3 feet,
  • Two bouquets of flowers,
  • A pitcher with water,
  • Seven pieces of fruit: apples and/or oranges,
  • One pound of uncooked rice, and
  • Nine pillows and one comfortable chair.

Next, the monks draw the outline of the mandala on the base. A teacher chooses the design, and the monks draw the outline from memory. They use a ruler, compass and ink pen, and the process takes about three hours to complete.

The mandala is then ready to be filled in. The monks use metal funnels called chak-pur to lay the millions of grains of sand within the outline. The monks hold the chak-pur in one hand and rub a metal rod over the funnel’s grated surface. This process causes the sand to trickle out of the funnel like water onto the mandala base. During the laying of the sand, the monks also chant to invoke the energies of the divine beings that reside inside the mandala and ask that the deities bestow healing blessings.

Monks at The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Photo credit: Huffington Post.
Once the mandala is completed, the monks host a closing ceremony that, once again, outsiders are welcome to attend. The sand is swept up to symbolize the impermanence of existence. Half of the sand is placed into an urn and the other half is distributed among the audience as a blessing for personal health and healing. The half in the urn is taken to the nearest body of water and poured in to symbolize the spread of the mandala’s healing energies.

Although it is sad to see such a beautiful work of art destroyed, the symbolism of all parts of the mandala’s construction and deconstruction is harmonious and peaceful. The sand mandala is meant to generate compassion, recognition of the impermanence of existence and environmental healing. In today’s world, these are three things that we could certainly use a reminder of.

Watch the video below from The Crow Collection of Asian Art to see a time-lapse video of the making of a mandala.