curator’s tibetan treasures: the rezk collection of tib e .2018-04-20 · tibetan buddhist art

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  • Tibet, located centrally in Asia just to the North of theHimalayan mountain range, has become over the lastthousand years one of the great art producing cultures of theworld, much like Egypt, Greece, Japan, India, China and somany others. The mammoth production of artworks isevidenced by the numerous collections found in museum andprivate holdings throughout the world along with the numberof art exhibitions and publications produced each year. Thereasons for producing so much art are many and varied. Theart, as in the past, is still produced today as objects ofworship, religious offerings, andmemorials of death or for theavoidance of calamity. It is created for personal use, as statussymbols, and very importantly, created as gifts.

    The Tibetan and Nepalese art in this exhibition is the productof Tibetan Buddhism and was produced between the twelfthand twentieth centuries. Buddhism is considered one of theworlds great religions, yet in actuality it is not a religion at all.Rather, it is a body of teachings and practices designed to freethe spirit from an endless cycle of suffering, death, andrebirth. By following its precepts, the adherent maybecome a Buddha (enlightened one) and attain a state ofblissful oneness with All.

    As with Christianity, Buddhism has taken onmany forms sinceits beginnings in the late sixth century B.C. Its founder,Siddhartha Gautama (more often referred to as the Buddha)was an Indian Prince who became enlightened after anarduous quest for spiritual fulfillment. During his lifetime, heattractedmany disciples who afterwards spread his teachingsfar and wide. From India to nearly all parts of Asia andbeyond, the words of the Buddha have been disseminated and interpreted according to the needs of each culture that has received them.

    Buddhism arrived in Tibet around the mid seventh century A.D.; by the second half of the eighth century it had been adopted as thenations official religion. Tibetans, however, did not wholly abandon their earlier native faith, and the indigenous religion called Bon stillcontinues and is flourishing today.

    Tibetan Buddhist art strongly emphasizes allegorical representations; it also encompasses the depiction of historical personages,including revered teachers, notable disciples (arhats), and saints (bodhisattvas). On one hand, these portraits serve as tangiblereminders of Buddhist lineages and the spiritual achievement of its most devoted practitioners; on the other, they become visualreminders of the focal points of those mystical processes by which the adherent merges not only with the exemplar, but also with the teach-ings he represents.

    Meditation becomes the chief vehicle for mystic experience, and its importancegives rise to further imagery intended to assist the meditator as he or shetraverses the highly subjective and spiritualized paths that lead to enlighten-ment. Mandalas (abstract circular diagrams punctuated by figurative elements)are perhaps the best-known examples of this imagery. Rooted in Buddhistteachings, each is a mind map that serves as a guide to the inward process ofmeditation. Anchored by a central personage, the mandala promotes anordered reflection on Buddhist precepts; this in turn leads the adherent into thedeep contemplation necessary to a true mystic encounter.

    Tibetan Buddhism is not strictly confined to themystic or the monk, however. Itis also the province of the common man, and as such, it has its popular aspect.Typical expressions include rosy depictions of the paradise worlds existinghigher up on the scale of rebirth toward enlightenment. Inhabited by buddhasand benevolent deity figures, they are comparable to pop Christian images ofheaven.

    Whether popular or esoteric, the striking imagery of Tibetan Buddhism is byitself of compelling interest. One need not be a Buddhist, or even beknowledgeable about Buddhist beliefs, in order to appreciate the rich imagery,color and composition of Tibetan art. For the Westerner, it expands culturalawareness and enriches the imagination. It provokes both wonder and delight,and for those willing to spend time with it, it strikes a sympathetic chord. Wemay not understand it completely, but like the chanting of monks in a temple, itfills the spirit with its reverberations.

    V. Scott DimondSeptember 2011

    An Exhibition Organized by theSouthern Alleghenies Museum of Art

    Loretto, Pennsylvania


    ITED by the AM







    DIRECTORS CIRCLEMr. and Mrs. William BenzelMiss Susan F. CraryThe Donald & Sylvia Robinson Family FoundationFranciscan Friars, T.O.R.Mr. and Mrs. Guy Paden GambleMr. and Mrs. Harry McCrearyMr. and Mrs. Edgar Dean NelsonThe Rev. Sean M. Sullivan, T.O.R.

    MUSEUM ASSOCIATESMrs. Mary Weidlein

    EDUCATION SPONSORSC & G Savings BankCentral Pennsylvania Community FoundationMr. and Mrs. John K. Duggan, Jr.Harold & Betty Cottle Family FoundationPennsylvania Council on the ArtsMr. and Mrs. Gerald P. Wolf

    EXHIBITION SPONSORSDr. and Mrs. Magdi AzerHon. and Mrs. Timothy CreanyMr. and Mrs. Donald DevorrisNeil and Marilyn Port Family FoundationMrs. Shirley Pechter

    Editors:Travis MearnsBobby Moore

    Printer:Advanced Color Graphics

    Catalogue Design:Color Scan LLC


    This catalogue is published by theSouthern Alleghenies Museum of ArtPost Office Box NineLoretto, PA 15940(814) 472-3920

    Hours:Tuesday through Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.Saturday: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.Closed Sundays and MondaysAdmission is free

    Cover:The Buddha Matri (Mother of Buddhas),Vajravarahi/Kadgha Dakini

    Drawing upon my past business experience, I realize theimportance of cultural awareness in todays global market place.Cultural awareness is a competency many organizations value.Understanding and respecting the differences between culturescan impact business success or failure in this complex,multicultural world.

    To this end, the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA)takes great pride in offering a very special exhibition and buildinga cultural experience into the overall program. In this our 35thyear, SAMA brings to the forefront one of the Museums mostvalued and treasured collections, the Rezk Collection of Tibetanand Nepalese Art.

    This collection of Tibetan and Nepalese art has been touted as animportant international treasure. The quality of the thangkas,bronzes, woodblock prints and ceremonial objects has beendeemed to be some of the best in the United States. Spanningover eight centuries, these works date back to the 1100s and arerecognized as an exceptional cultural and educational resource.

    Dr. John Huntington, professor of Asian Art History at the OhioState University and one of the foremost scholars of Tibetan art inthe world, surveyed the collection in 1998 and affirmed the uniquestature of the Rezk Collection. Dr. Huntington and his assistantsdiscovered symbols in the paintings which do not exist in otherknown collections of Tibetan art.

    Dr. Huntington wrote, A Buddhist work of art may be made forvarious reasons; for example, to benefit the soul of a deceasedfamily member, or simply to offer thanks and share benefactionsreceived . . . Regardless of the original intent or specificmethodology of a work of art, both patron and artist firmly believethat just seeing a work of Buddhist art is better than not to haveseen it at all.

    The Rezk Collection opens a door to a culture that is very differentfrom our own. This is a rare opportunity for the college community,area schools and museum patrons to gain an insight into, anunderstanding of, and an appreciation for Asian art, religion andculture.

    SAMA has elected to build a cultural, educational, and informa-tional experience around the exhibition. The creation of a sand

    Tibetan Treasures: The Rezk Collectionof Tibetan and Nepalese Art

    mandala and the attendant ceremony, along with a related filmfestival and other programming, should complement theexhibition.

    Tibetan Treasures: The Rezk Collection of Tibetan and Nepalese Art is aspecial gift to our constituents as we conclude themilestone eventof the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Arts 35th anniversary.My colleagues and I are pleased that you could join us for thisunique experience and we look forward to expanding our culturalawareness as we travel this exhibition to other museums acrossthe country.

    My sincere appreciation is extended to all of the individuals whoworked tomake Tibetan Treasures: The Rezk Collection of Tibetan andNepalese Art a noteworthy event for the Southern AllegheniesMuseum of Art. I offer a special thank you to the Shelly andDonald Rubin Foundation for theirsupport and to John Rezk,Michael McCormick, and JeffWatt for their invaluablecontributions to this exhibition.SAMA Curator for Visual Arts, Dr.Scott Dimond, and SAMARegistrar, Bobby Moore, deserverecognition for their efforts incoordinating this exhibitionprogram. I also thank MichaelAllison for his assistance indelivering a unique culturalexperience. The Museum staffrolled up their sleeves and wentto work to make the program asuccess and I thank them all fortheir help. Finally, I recognize anactive and involved communitywhose continued support iscritical to the Museums future.

    G. Gary MoyerExecutive DirectorSouthern AllegheniesMuseum of Art

    AcknowledgmentCuratorsStatementWith contributions byMichael McCormickand Jeff Watt

    The Benefactor, Six-Armed Mahakala (Great Black/Time)

    Mandala of The Benefactor, Gurgyi Gonpo (Angry-One-of-the-Tent)Surrounded by the Eight Charnal Fields

    Kadam Chorten (Stupa)

  • Tsang District, Tibet, 12th/13th CenturyKadam Chorten (Stupa)Brass, 10 hGift of Mr. and Mrs. John C. Rezk

    Tsang District, Tibet, 13th/14th CenturyKadam Chorten (Stupa)Brass and interi