Monday, August 6, 2012

Past and Present: A Refuge

My favorite medium for creating textile art is silk fabric.  Research of this textile brought me to a passion for all things related to silk, including the Silk Road.   The Bamiyan Valley, located in the Hindu Kush mountain range,  was a stop on the Silk Road for road-weary travelers, merchants and caravans.  Also, Buddhist pilgrims came there for monastic study.  


When adding the words textile and China together thoughts of silk enter my mind.  In ancient times, the Silk Road connected the East to the West—from China to the Roman Empire and beyond.  One route passed through the Bamiyan Valley, formerly a district of the Persian Empire.  There, two colossal statues of the Buddha were carved into the mountain.  The tallest is about 180 feet, the height of a 10 story building.  Monasteries housing monks, and chapels for pilgrims were carved into the rock surrounding these two statues.  The figures were painted gold and draped in silk.
Around two thousand years later, the giant statues were in disrepair and the niches occupied by homeless Afghan refugees.  A small group of people ruling Afghanistan called Taliban were determined to destroy these statues.  A cry of protest echoed from around the world, including the people of Afghanistan.  On March 1, 2001 this wonder of the ancient world was obliterated.

I wrote those words in 2001 about the fiber collage pictured below that I was compelled to create in order to process and understand the mentioned destruction.

"Old Man Sitting on a Yellow Rock"                                                                                                                            24" x 55" 

At times, that’s what I do with the making of art―come to an understanding of a particular subject matter. It was my first year of art college and, at 50 years old, I had just read the book  Siddhartha. My world view and life were changing dramatically and quickly as I was totally immersed in art. Then, this occurred.

The statues had already incurred disfigurement (literally) in prior years. My question was simply, why was distruction necessary?  Among other answers: It didn’t destroy what it represented; it changed nothing but the physical image of its history; and it brought both site and sight back to prominence―it was part the flow Siddhartha learned and accepted.

The taller Buddha of Bamiyan before (left picture) and after destruction (right). Derivative work: Zaccarias
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The TAG-5’s exploration of art in an historical context has brought these statues back into my focus.  Mary L. knew my journey making this piece and a few weeks ago gave me an article (at a TAG-5 meeting) from a National Geographic magazine.  She knew I would be interested in new information regarding these statues.  Not only was I excited to read about it, I was excited to learn more about the materials used in creating these sculptures.  They consist of sandstone, clay plaster and goat hairs which prevent cracking when the clay dried.  Note that the draping on one of the statues had a Greco-Roman influence.  Looking at the images NationalGeographic magazine, one can imagine how beautiful the statues would have appeared when draped in yards and yards of colorful silk in contrast to the desert's tan.  In my imagination, it was like a beacon to those needing an oasis. A hint of this contrast is the woman’s attire on the link to National Geographic.

Statue of Buddha (1976) Author: Marco Bonavoglia

Closer view of statue of Buddha (1976)Author: Marco Bonavoglia
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Why am I explaining all this?  As mentioned in previous posts, there is always new technology that  helps understand art and its history.  In this case, there are researchers at Aachen University, Germany, developing 3-D technology to recreate these statues “virtually” based on the fragments in the niches.  As one of the great wonders of the world, it is not gone forever.  In fact, we may get a better sense of what it looked like in its original state. 

Mary B. 

P.S.  My scroll-style silk fabric collage has been rolled up for a very long time; I decided it was time to unroll it for you.

1 comment:

  1. Do you generally create exclusively for this blog or you do that for any other online or offline networks?