How do we slow down long enough to have meaningful encounters with art?
In preparation for this global event, I took some time to gaze upon a pair of sculptures from our current exhibition Peninsulas and Dragon Tails: Southeast Asian Art from the Crow Collection.
These two Disciples of the Buddha from Myanmar (Burma) pictured on the left and right, originally would have been placed in a temple, one on each side of a Buddha figure, displaying the virtue of devotion.
For my slow art experiment, I sat on the floor to look up at the Disciples. As most of you have probably experienced, looking at sculpture (and sometimes even paintings) from a different vantage point gives you an entirely new understanding. From below, I was really able to look into their eyes, and I had a much more personal experience than I would have had if I had been staring down upon them.
Earlier this year, I had the chance to personally experience Burmese Buddhist culture, so I feel like I have a pre-existing relationship with the Disciples—some Crow Collection staffers and I went to have lunch at the Lien Hoa Buddhist Monastery & Temple in Irving. We were there to listen and learn from a Burmese monk, refugee, and wonderful friend of the museum: U zin. After lunch, we entered the sanctuary, where we were instructed to remove our shoes and sit on the floor. Because I was wearing a skirt, I had to fold my legs to the side (also we learned that it’s considered rude to point the soles of your feet at someone; to avoid this cultural faux pas never sit with your feet in front of you! )The position I sat in mimicked one of the Disciples, and was surprisingly comfortable. I was able to sit like that for almost 30 minutes, while we listened attentively to U zin. Everyone was completely captivated by his soft and careful way of speaking. I felt like one of the disciples.
Bringing that experience with me to this slow art experiment, I was able to more fully understand the reason for the sculptures’ big round eyes. They exhibit devoted attention and a willingness to learn.
So I took the chance to sit on the floor again, only this time, I was looking at two sculptures with smooth heads and their hands folded in praying gesture instead of U zin. I stared silently at them, and they stared silently back at me with their big eyes. For ten minutes, we learned from each other.
Slow Art Day is next week, April 27th
To register or find more information about how to participate with the Crow Collection, click here.
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