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A rich, illustrative art collection honoring the Dalai Lama has found what is perhaps an unlikely, albeit temporary, home: The University of Colorado Pueblo. The unprecedented exhibit includes 16 thangkas—a traditional, Tibetan two-dimensional work of art made using 24-karat gold and paint—that catalogue Dalai Lama’s lineage. For those who need a quick primer on Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader whose identity was first recognized in the late 14th century, and is incarnated in different Tibetan monks—the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama.
The exhibit, which debuted at CSU-Pueblo’s Fine Art Gallery last week, depicts all 14 of the Dalai Lamas framed by scenes that narrate major events that occurred over the course of their lives. Each thangka featured in Embracing Compassion is part of a project of the same name that was commissioned by the current Dalai Lama in 2002. Each piece took about nine months to create, and the complete collection was built over the course of about 13 years. Embracing Compassion’s mission is twofold: First, preserve and celebrate Tibetan culture, and second, inspire compassion—a cornerstone of Buddhism—in its viewers. Its first stop at CSU-Pueblo marks a pivotal point in the project, and is a monumental moment for the campus’ art department.
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Last year, Embracing Compassion reached out to Dr. Melissa Dolese, a visiting experimental psychologist and assistant professor at CSU-Pueblo who studies the influence of artwork on its viewers. She is using the project to research the effect of the thangkas. In other words, they want to prove that simply looking at the paintings will actually make people act with more compassion after they leave the exhibit.
The collection will be on display through the end of the week, and on Thursday, the gallery will host a lecture on Buddhism and a guided meditation, both geared toward beginners.
If You Go: Embracing Compassion is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The closing ceremony is Thursday, March 2, from 5 to 7 p.m., and will include a special talk by Andrew Palmer, Sensei at the Wet Mountain Sanga, a zen Buddhist community in Pueblo. A group meditation in the gallery will follow.