Thursday, June 21, 2018

Art Planner: Sand mandala at a museum, realism and Cuban art


Sand mandalas are gorgeous works of art. Even more, they are physical manifestations of the Buddhist belief that material life is transitory. Probably the greatest living practitioner of sand mandalas is Losang Samten and he will create a mandala at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, 255 Beach Drive NE, beginning Sunday.

Samten is a scholar who for many years was a Buddhist monk serving for several years as the Dalai Lama's personal attendant. The spiritual leader sent Samten to the United States in 1988 to introduce the art form to the West. Since then, he has created mandalas at major museums and educational institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Columbia University and Harvard University. He also was a technical adviser for and appeared in Kundun, Martin Scorsese's film about the Dalai Lama.

A mandala is ephemeral. After its creation, blessing and time for contemplating it, it is dismantled. Both are ceremonial, ritualistic processes as is the design. Beautiful as it is, its purpose is to present sacred symbols and deities in a formal, geometric pattern within a circle. This mandala's theme will be the healing Buddha.

Samten will work in the Mary Alice McClendon Conservatory and you pay no admission to watch. A suggestion is to view the mandala in the making and then visit the museum galleries, especially the Asian Gallery with its collection of Buddha sculptures. That requires admission: $17 adults; $15 seniors and military; $10 college students with ID and youths 7 to 18. Children under 6 are free. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday with extended hours to 8 p.m. Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Want more? Losang will offer teachings and a tea ceremony to begin the New Year from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday at Sacred Lands, 1700 Park St. N., St. Petersburg. $15. (727) 347-0354.

Sand mandala schedule

Sunday, noon: Drawing of the mandala

Monday, 2 p.m. : Blessing of the sand

Monday through Jan. 15: Creation of the mandala. Samten will work from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. each day except Jan. 11.

Jan. 7, 6:30 p.m.: Screening of Martin Scorsese's Kundun with an introduction by Samten

Jan. 9, 2 p.m.: Book-signing, Ancient Teachings in Modern Times by Losang Samten

Jan. 16, noon: Dismantling ceremony


Fifty years ago, realism in art was considered dated at best, cornball at worst. Fortunately, realism has proven it's here to stay and can stand proudly beside its more conceptual brethren. One compelling reason: People like the style. At its best, it gives viewers a sense of time and place, an experience that can be familiar or new. We know intellectually we're looking at a two-dimensional interpretation of three-dimensional real life, but it reads as real.

"Realism, the Art of Make Believe" at Dabbert Gallery is a group show of oil paintings including The Purchase by Bill Farnsworth. It reminded me of a movie I recently revisited, Under the Tuscan Sun, and the small, charming Italian village that became a major character. The show at the gallery, 76 S Palm Ave., Sarasota, opens Saturday and continues through Jan. 31. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Free. (941) 955-1315.


Yes, a trip to Cuba is the best way to enjoy its vibrant culture but if that isn't in the offing, plan a visit to Nuance Galleries, 804 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, to view works by 16 Cuban artists. Owner and collector Robert Rowan has assembled a group of paintings and prints created between 1960 and 2000.

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