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Curator's Introductions

Linda Hightower

In the visual arts we reveal what we consider essential to our history and share the essence of our cultures. We see ourselves as the guardians of an environmentally fragile world filled with the complexities of personal, regional, national and community relationships.  The chosen pieces included in the Masters of Ancient Arts in a Modern World exhibition represent centuries-old traditions of the five Buddhist revered arts; Sculpture, Repousse’, Paubha painting, Stone and Wood Carving. These arts reflect the symbols, patterns and philosophy of the Nepali culture and Buddhist tradition. The exhibition includes some of the finest works of the highly recognized master artists of Nepal as well as the next generation of younger artists. The newest generation is working diligently to preserve their native traditions while infusing their work with contemporary concepts.  Though they are currently utilizing ancient techniques they hope to combine state of the art technology with their current methodology to bring the finest pieces of art and cultural representation to the world.

As globilization continues to divest the world of native traditions, the master artisans decided to reopen a traditional art-training center located in the Kathmandu Valley. Their hope is to promote an education in traditional art while helping to preserve the existing historical art and architecture.  The center offers a two-year certificate program that prepares the future artisans to comprehend and embrace the values and basic spiritual ideology behind the art forms. This renowned center provides foundational understanding and spiritual development prior to hands-on instruction in creating the traditional art pattern drawings. The masters are able to engage the minds and creative spirits of the younger generation.   The most successful students are then chosen to work directly with the masters in the workshops. This center is the only one of its kind in Nepal and looks to the future with the creation of an arts village with studios where master artists can live and produce their art in a supportive community, which will also be open to the public.
My co-curator in this incredible project is Barbara Cook. Ms. Cook earned her Master’s of Fine Arts in Heidleburg, Germany in 1973.  Her focus in metallurgy lead her to become an internationally recognized jeweler who has spent the last twenty years studying and working with Nepalese metal master artisans.  American born and raised, Barbara has been adopted into the family of a revered and honored Nepali master artist, Drabya Ratna Shakya who considers her his daughter.  Barbara has  championed the initiative served as a consultant and major supporter of the school.  Through her years of travel and part time residency in Nepal, Barbara developed close relationships with many of the Nepali master artists.   It is her passion for the art as well as the Nepali artisans that has enabled us to bring this amazing exhibition to the United States. 

This Kennesaw State University exhibition offers an unparalleled educational opportunity for American art students to have exposure to these traditional art pieces, workshops and visiting artisans.  The intricate shapes, bold colors, diverse patterns and conceptual figures speak to the soul of the process. These unique representations embody the beauty of the past traditions of the five Buddhist arts and allow the viewer a glimpse of the future of this distinctive style of art and the artisans on the other side of our globe.

Lin A. Hightower, M.F.A., Ed.D.

Barbara Cook

We live in an ever-changing world, where technology is bridging societal gaps but all too often cultures are losing their identities.  It is our moral obligation to ensure that the ancient traditions, values and artistic representations of divine inspiration are not lost as we evolve as a global people.  It is my hope that this exhibition will bring awareness to the importance of preserving and cultivating the artistic endeavors of the Nepali master artisans through education.

Nestled within the vast Himalayas, Nepal has influenced art far beyond its borders. The forefathers of today's artisans travelled between the arduous mountain terrain of the Trans-Himalayan Tibetan plateau and the valleys of the Indian subcontinent for nearly two millennia. Along with their intellectual integrity, spiritual and philosophical beliefs, these travelers carried their material possessions bridging the Sanskrit traditions of the South to the Tibetan culture of the North.  Nepalese artisans have transformed and developed those values and aesthetic ideals to create the unique and richly varied art of the Himalayas.

This magnificent international exhibition showcases an extraordinary collection of rarely seen cultural and traditional Nepalese art forms.  Focusing on this incredible level of excellence in creativity, the exhibition at Kennesaw invites visitors and students to experience an artistic trek through this fascinating region while viewing the educational processes of lost wax casting, repousse´, inlaid filigree, gilded and painted cast bronzes, sculptures of wood and stone and vibrant Paubha paintings depicting awe-inspiring revered deities. 

The collection represents the spiritual, often intimate, interaction between artist and their subject. Today, artisans are more knowledgeable and conscious of the deeper meanings and immense spiritual value learned through iconography and the teachings of their mentors. The distinct personal expressions of each individual artist also pays tribute to the various ways in which their mentors’ work inspired them. It has become a more precise art form following the clothing and decorative patterns set forth by their forefathers and the portrayal of the deity images representative in Buddhism.

For centuries they have seldom been referred to as "artisans," but rather as laborers for the palaces and temples therefore never branding their work. Currently, the middleman or merchant engaging their skills for highly profitable commissioned pieces demand no signing as well eliminating the possibility for direct client/artisan contact or potential following of the work.

Though their finished pieces are included in both public and private collections throughout the world more oft than not, artisans remain unaware of who houses their lifelong bodies of work. This exhibition represents their years of dedication to their art and achievements accomplished through difficult and intensive training passed down through generations. It not only recognizes their masterful abilities, knowledge of architecture, mathematics, mechanical engineering, but graces them finally with the honor, dignity and respect as artisans they so greatly deserve.

Barbara Cook M.F.A., Co-founder Nepal Traditional Handicraft Training Center.

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