Tibetan art focus of new exhibit at Vassar’s Loeb Art Center

The Hudson Valley is home to many beautiful and historic museums, colleges, libraries, and gardens. What many people may not be aware of is the incredible free access to art, from antiquity to present, at The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center on the campus of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

Two new exhibits, “Mastery and Merit: Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection” and “Beyond the Threshold: Tibetan Contemporary Art,” are currently on view through the end of July; Each explores Tibetan art and culture throughout history.

“Mastery and Merit” includes a stunning array of thangka paintings — traditionally used as instructional and devotional objects — with Buddhist scenes, deities, and mandala painted on a cloth and typically covered by a curtain of fabric and rolled for storage when not in use.

In addition to the paintings, the Jack Shear Collection of Tibetan Art features related objects such as divination mirrors, a personal shrine, and initiation cards or tsakli—painted images used in ritualized meditation practice. This joint acquisition of Tibetan art from the Jack Shear Collection is the launch of an institutional partnership between Vassar, Skidmore, and Williams colleges, which will share the unusual collection.

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Ariana Maki, Associate Director of the University of Virginia Tibet Center and Bhutan Initiative and lecturer in art history and religious studies, has worked as a consultant on the project since 2021. Maki takes you through the exhibit as a journey through Buddhism, from general orientations to sources of Buddhist traditions to initiation. The intricacies of the imagery throughout this exhibit are intriguing to those who are aware of its cultural significance, as well as those who are looking for a transformative experience.

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