Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Painted Book Cover from Ancient Kashmir

A new article on the Asian Art ( website - A Painted Book Cover from Ancient Kashmir by Pratapaditya Pal. "The history of architecture and sculpture from Kashmir’s pre-Islamic past (1st c. BCE – 1300 CE) is well-apprised but nothing is known about painting. No example of pictorial art has yet come to light in the Valley of Kashmir. The purpose of this article is to discuss a painted panel in wood that was introduced in the recent exhibition of the arts of Kashmir. This painted panel is the only known object of its type that can be clearly traced to Kashmir itself and the artists there." (Publisher)

HAR History, Stats & Other Information (Part 1)

The Himalayan Art Resources website (HAR) was created by and is still funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation. The site was begun in early 1997 and went live in September of the same year. At that time the site was known as the Tibet Art Project and used the Url 'tibetart dot com.' The Url and name were changed in 2001 to Himalayan Art Project and the current Url The name was changed again in 2004 after numerous academics complained about the use of the word 'project.' They suggested that the word 'project' implied something of a limited and finite duration. They apparently did not want HAR to be finished and wrapped up to soon. After that the name was changed again to Himalayan Art Resources which better described the actual work the site was doing and was more inclusive of the large number of countries, traditions and ethnic communities represented on the website.

Initially the people involved were Don and Shelley Rubin, Moke Mokotoff, Jane Casey Singer, Keith Bush, Chris Wilkinson and others. The web development was done primarily by Comvision of New York with input from web developers of Multiplan Inc. In the fall of 1997 I (Jeff Watt) was asked to provide content for the site but declined at that time because I felt the site was too faith based. There were only 625 images of paintings on the site at that time. In April of 1998 I was asked again to provide content for the site and slowly began to add descriptive write-ups to the individual works of art. At this time it was only paintings (tangkas). In 2000 and 2001 the site began to add sculpture and begin to distinguish between Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, etc. This was not an easy time.

In those early years Angela Powell, a Multiplan employee, did all of the scanning, numbering of images and uploading to the site. Ben Brinkley, hired by Shelley & Donald Rubin Cultural Trust in the fall of 1999 to start the development of an education department for the future Rubin Museum of Art, quickly became one of the most important assets in the development of the HAR website. Ben was also responsible for the creation of the Kids section of HAR.

In 2001 Tenzin Dharlo began work on HAR as the administrator followed by Pema Choephel as web developer in 2002. Soon after that Monty McKeever was hired as a summer intern, and then a returning intern, and then hired full time. His work and writing is well represented on the HAR site under the various miscellaneous, Jataka, and mahasiddha stories. David Pritzker was brought onto the HAR team in 2008 as an assistant curator after working with me for 2 years at the Rubin Museum of Art.

See two early articles about HAR: Virtual Treasures, The Himalayan Art Project to the Rescue by Joan Duncan Oliver (2003) and A Virtual Museum, Himalayan Art Resources by Barry Boyce (2005).

Angela Powell has moved on and is happily working in the health care industry. Ben Brinkley remains both a professional educator and web developer at a university on the West Coast. Monty Mckeever has returned to complete his college education. Pema Choephel is a professional web developer at a prestigious college in Oregon. Both Ben and Pema still consult for the HAR website and provide valuable advice when needed.

The staff of HAR has dwindled down because of the late 2008 economic situation. Tenzin Dharlo remains as administrator with Simon Chantasirivisal in charge of image management. David Pritzker will remain as a roving curator while traveling abroad. In 2009 HAR will be starting an unpaid Intern Program in the New York offices with the hope to maintain the level of image uploads on the site and to maintain the quality overall. (End of Part 1)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Book: A Garland of Jewels

A GARLAND OF JEWELS: The Eight Great Bodhisattvas by Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche (Jamyang Namgyal, 1846–1912), translated by Yeshe Gyamtso.

It is very difficult to find information on the descriptions, iconography and history of the group of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. This book is for those of you out there who are interested in the Bodhisattvas and what is actually written in the Sutras about them without having to read all of the Sutras yourself. A small number of interesting and useful Tantric quotes have also been included. Mipham was especially interested in Manjushri and it is not surprising to see that nearly half of the book is devoted to him. Mipham's text is based on the work of Zhuchen Tsultrim Rinchen (1697-1774) of Dege Gonchen Monastery. Zhuchen was the chief editor of the Dege Tangyur and one of the most important Lamas of Eastern Tibet in the 18th century.

"The great sutras of the Mahayana are repositories of extraordinary accounts of miracles and great deeds performed buddhas and bodhisattvas. Mipham's purpose in writing this book was to inspire us to emulate these great beings and to give us confidence in the effectiveness of the Mahayana path." (Publisher).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Odds & Ends

There has been a lot going on with the HAR site but it is mostly behind the scenes or additions to the various thematic and subject sets. This happens too often to notify everybody every time a small change is made. The Animal Relationships Guide/Glossary has been added to the Links/Glossary Resources Page. Now all of the glossaries are together. It has also been annotated with a few remaining entries still to add. The Jataka Animal Guide is still in process.

The HAR staff have been busy with cataloging several new museum collections to be uploaded to the site in the near future. Once we photograph an art collection, or receive digital images, it takes time and work to organize, number, upload and catalog. Currently we have approximately 10,000 images from scores of collections to be cataloged and uploaded. Deciding how to prioritize those collections is one of our ongoing challenges, a challenge we are grateful to have.