Six of Portland’s finest artists, who also practice Buddhism, presented 15-minute segments of the essence of their artistry at a unique Portland celebration of the arts March 1.
The “Arts as Buddhist Practice” event was held in the sanctuary of the First Congregational Church in downtown Portland, and organized by Jacqueline Mandell, with support from Northwest Dharma Association.
In lieu of a single annual meeting, this year the association coordinated separate events in Portland and Seattle, on successive weekends, focused on Buddhism and the arts. The Seattle event was March 8.
Several people attending the Portland gathering called it “a splendid and rich evening.”
The artists said they had to work hard to contain the wealth of their knowledge and experience into a tailored presentation. From this container, and the fact that each only had 15 minutes, each artist offered a unique style and delivery.
Northwest Dharma Association board member and Samden Ling teacher Mandell was master of ceremonies, introducing each artist.
The evening began with a slide show and exposition by painter Jef Gunn, on the role that modern and contemporary artists have played, and continue to play, in giving form to the teachings. Here’s a link to his talk.
Chado tea ceremony teacher Jan Waldmann followed, with a performance of The Way of Tea that illuminated the poignant single moment of the first sip of tea.
Prajwal Ratna Vajracharya, ritual master of the Charya Nritya Dance Tradition, demonstrated mudras and explained the inner meaning of traditional dance postures.
Lisa Stanley, a senior teacher of the Shambhala art Curriculum, and a certified Sogetsu Ikebana teacher, showed a traditional flower arrangement she had made and explained the key features of the arrangement.
Master thangka painter Sanje Elliott showed one of his finished thangkas on one easel, and drew and explained the detailed drawing-construction of the Buddha’s head on a second easel.
His demonstration was complemented by harp music played by Kim Swennes.
Swennes, a trained opera singer and harpist, concluded the evening with a talk on her evolution as a musical thanatologist. This, she said, is the fine art of playing appropriate music for terminally ill and dying people, and their families.
The entire evening illuminated the common thread of the ancient way of art, becoming spirituality.
The author: Jacqueline Mandell is a founding teacher of Portland-based Samden Ling, translated as “A sanctuary for meditative contemplation.” She leads meditation classes every Wednesday evening in downtown Portland.