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Asian Arts Exhibit Opens in Maryland

A variety of Asian arts are being shown to the American public through an exhibition at Asian Arts Gallery of the Towson University of Maryland this month. The artworks for the Asian Sacred Arts exhibition, which runs through May 15, come from 14 private collections in Baltimore, Md., and the Washington area.

Collections of paintings and sculptures are from across Asia, displaying the depth and range of Asian sacred arts, the forms of their multi-level functions, and the transformation of the profound into the world of today.

“There are a lot of nice works from Far East, China, Tibet, Cambodia and other countries,” said Reza Sarhangi, a professor of math at Towson. “This is good for public awareness to know about other people’s cultures, so I encourage the art exhibit and TowsonUniversityto bring more diversity by bringing different cultures and art exhibits there to present different parts of the world.”

Ancient and modern art works from Burma, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and Tibet are all on display.

But this year, Tibet holds the key spot, said John Gilmore Ford, curator of the exhibition.

“The focal point of the gallery is a Tibetan shrine,” he said.

Suewhei Sheih, the director of the Asian Arts and Culture Center, asked him to focus on Tibet because the theme of her festival for 2009 and 2010 is based on the “esoteric world of Tibetan Buddhism,” he said.

Ford said the most auspicious piece in the exhibition is cloisonné bronze sculpture of Tsongkapa, a Tibetan who lived from 1357 to 1419. He is credited with melding various sects of Tibetan Buddhism into one practice, and many Tibetans hail him as an emissary of Buddha.

A Tibetan stupa of bronze and jade, crafted in the 18th Century, demonstrates the power of the symbol, which, like the cross in Christianity, is associated with triumph over death. Initially, stupas like these contained Buddha relics, but later, any devout follower could erect a stupa in Buddha’s memory.

The exhibit also carries modern pieces by Tibetans who have lived in the past 50 years. East is unique and demonstrates inspirations from tradition and heritage and modern times, which is one of the reasons old and new art works are being shown together.

Director Shieh said the Asian Arts and Culture Center had been created to house such collections and make them accessible to students and has since grown to include works of art in all media from a variety of Asian cultures.

Asian Sacred Arts includes three Islamic paintings and two paintings by Michael Griver, a long-time Baltimore artist, “Buddha Reinvested” and “Envisioning Nirvana.”

Some works reflect Cambodia.

“The lips here of the Buddha, if you look at the lips of the Cambodian sculpture of the Buddha, they are shaped in that form,” Ford said. “So to that degree it is a representation of Cambodia."