Thursday, April 27, 2006

Buddha of Infinite Light

For the first time in our art exhibition we have a featured artist, Ms. Tamarind Rossetti. Her painting is of Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light (detail shown). It is a very large painting, eight feet high by five foot three inches wide. There is a luminous blue sky and a vermillion Buddha sitting serenely and powerfully in the middle of it. Wisps of clouds flutter all around His body, intricate gold designs decorate His robes.

Rossetti was born in Ojai, California where she spent her childhood exploring the world of art and theater. After graduating from high school she was accepted at University of California, Berkeley. There she completed two degrees, one in English Literature the other in the Practice of Art and graduated with highest honors.

After college she traveled. “I wanted to see how the people of the world live and interact. I felt that through their dance and art I could understand them more deeply.” For five years she kept up her exploration, working in the US and then returning to her travels. She went to Europe, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

In Mexico she worked on an art project about communication. It included dance, photography, video and music. “ The topic was addressed through literal dance and the planetary dance of our solar system, as well as natural and man-made satellites. Everywhere I went there were satellite dishes on top of people’s homes. Even in the small town of Mitla, in the state of Oaxaca. Every town had these dishes so they could watch TV and use cell phones. There is this enormous dance going on between people vast distances apart; many via NASA’s satellites.”

In 1999 she was in Nepal. “I got a job photographing women braking into the all male Sherpa tradition. I worked with an interpreter and traveled all around Katmandu, and to many small villages in the Himalayas. I was exposed to Nepalese, Indian and Tibetan art and culture.”

“I was mesmerized by the paintings of Buddha’s eyes on Stupas. Everyday I would encounter some form of Buddhist devotion through sculptures and paintings of his feet, hands, head, and eyes. The colors were vibrant. They were so simple. They made me feel calm and connected.”

“I saw thankas being sold and also inside temples, but wasn’t seeking them out, just noticing them because I am an artist. I had no idea I would one day be drawn to paint them. Then, just a year ago, my friend who worked at the Tibetan retreat center, Ratna-Ling, in Northern California, called me. They needed an artist who could paint a ‘protection mandala’ in the building that would house a printing press that would be printing sacred texts.”

“I really wanted to paint it. It was going to be huge: 8’ x 12’, ten feet off the ground. I had done works of this size and scope before, but in the Italian Style. It was not surprising that I thoroughly enjoyed the process. I felt calm and invigorated.”

Last year the Osel Nyingpo Buddhist sangha was going to have an ‘Empowerment’ in Ojai. They had a small painting of Amitabha they wanted enlarged. “They asked me if I new a good way to do this. I said we could do a photographic reproduction or a large painting. I ended up painting this Amitabha based on the small thanka. I wanted to learn from Him. This is how I learn.”

She used a Tibetan book on how to paint thankas to guide her. It explained all the traditional ratios, geometry and symbols. “Because I can’t read Tibetan, I learned by looking at the diagrams.”

So, Rossetti has made an exquisite painting of Amitabha.

Please come to our gallery opening on Saturday, May 13th from 5 to 8pm. It will be in the place of honor, in the front window.

My wish is that the Buddha of Infinite Light, gaze out through those painted eyes, calling forth the true nature of all who pass, providing inspiration and determination so that we may fulfill the simple Buddhist affirmation:

For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I, too, abide
To dispel the misery of the world.

Lark Batteau Bailey