This is a repost of something I have shared elsewhere but I think it would be very appropriate to share it here:
A couple weekends ago Yumi and Julie and I attended the peace rally in
San Francisco (I had been marching with some other members of our
temple right alongside the Buddhist Peace Fellowship). Anyway, we
discovered that the Asian Art Museum was open for free.
There I saw one of the neatest art exhibits I have had the good
fortune to see. It was an exhibition called “Temple of the Mind.”
This exhibit displayed the art of the late Thai artist Montien
Boonma (1953-2000). If you live in the Bay Area or the exhibit ever
comes to your area, I urge you to see it.
Here is the URL for the exhibit:

http://www.asiasociety.org/arts/boonma/

So many things impressed me about his art. The most important was
that his art transcended any division of Mahayana or Theravada
(Thailand is a Theravadin country). In fact, I would even say that
it transcended Buddha Dharma in the sense that what he expressed
using Buddhist imagery was a basic humanity that can be appreciated
by anyone with a heart. He explored the suffering that he was going
through with his wife’s breast cancer and eventual death and then
his own imminent death due to a brain tumor but what he expressed
through his reflections was an art that celebrates healing and grace
even while recognizing the impermanence and fragility of life.
The art is itself struck me as remarkably visceral in that it
invites one to physically enter into it. One work is called “House
of Hope” and it is like a miniature temple made up on thousands of
prayers beads covering and surrounding a platform. One walks through
the beads as one circumambulates the platform. Another display was a
series of hollow Buddha heads sculpted from a fragrant wood and
found objects. One could put one’s own head inside the space of the
Buddha head and just breath in the healing herbs, incense, and scent
of the wood. Another one that really struck me was a wall of bells
enclosing the corner of the wall. One could look through the bells
to see a golden lotus flower with its falling petals on the corner
where the two walls meet. That one was called “Lotus Sound.” There
were other displays of stylized begging bowls drawn with crayon
hanging over bowls fashioned out of concrete and other materials. It
really invited you to look at the contrasting textures of the
objects depicting the bowls. All of his art seemed to include as
many senses as possible, sound, texture, scent, color, a sense of
space, and of course movement and the ephemeral contingent nature of
things. Much of his art used found objects to create the semblance
of other things – Buddha heads, lungs, stupas, begging bowls, and
other things. None of it was depressing at all – which is remarkable
considering what he was working though in his life. Rather all of it
was an invitation to explore, appreciate, and enter more deeply into
the preciousness of our life in all its transient glory.
Anyway, I do hope that more people will come to see and appreciate
Montien Boonma’s art.
Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,
Ryuei