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.
“Beyond the Threshold” presents selected works by 11 Tibetan artists based around the world. The artists were interested in showing how Tibetan life has become much more contemporary. Prior to the 1980’s, Tibetan artists were creating work very similar to the historical content of “Mastery and Merit.” Now, these artists are presenting a tension between the historical and traditional ideas and global influences.
Marie-Dolma Chophel’s piece, “Metamorphosis” (oil, enamel, spray paint and paint marker on canvas) opens the viewer to the special exhibits. Chophel has created this majestic scene that could appear as a computer generated net in the nebulous, and yet there is reference to the nature of us all being connected and the Himalayan Mountains.
“The Shambala of the Modern Times,” by Gonkar Gyatso is mixed media screen prints, silk screen varnished with silver and gold leaf on fine art paper. Gyatso references popular culture and still harkens back to typical figures that you see in Tibetan art. You can see an array of logos from corporations to children’s culture, including Snoopy talking to the Dalai Lama. The viewer could spend hours examining this work alone and still not find all the incredible references.
These exhibits could be visited multiple times and the viewer would still find something new and inspiring each time.
If you go
What: “Mastery and Merit: Tibetan Art from the Jack Shear Collection” and “Beyond the Threshold: Tibetan Contemporary Art”
Where: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, 124 Raymond Ave., Poughkeepsie
Dates: March 5 through July 31
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm; Thursdays: 10 am to 7 pm; closed Monday
Contact: 845-437-5236; vassar.edu/theLoeb
Melissa Dvozenja-Thomas is the director of development and marketing for Arts Mid-Hudson. Art From Here appears every other week Sunday. Contact her at 845-454-3222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.