Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Visit to Byodoin

Buddha at Byodoin in Kaneohe, Hawaii

Yesterday I drove to Byōdōin to take a break from all the madness. It lies in the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe. There were few people around so it was peaceful and contemplative. The temple itself is a replica of the one in Uji-shi, Japan. The Amida Buddha that sits inside the main hall is the work of sculptor Masuzo Inui, a descendant from a long line of carvers of iconic Buddhist statues. Covered in gold leaf with exquisite details on the mandorla, the statue is a tribute to the Buddha and to the ability of humankind to manipulate the physical world around them. Looking at the statue, you would be hard pressed to find who the artist was... in fact, it was from a xeroxed information sheet that I learned who the artist was... As with much of Buddhist art, the work is mostly anonymous; this is in stark contrast to modern art where the artist sometimes is more celebrated than the actual work (hence we have people who paint whales on the sides of buildings and then sell a giclee for thousands of dollars...). People seem to want to know the background of the artist, maybe buy into some romantic notion of a lone artist starving somewhere on the streets to be "discovered" and made famous overnight. It is as if the art buyer does not really trust his own tastes but needs some story to tell their friends. Maybe hanging up a piece of art is too revealing of a statement whereas buying a familiar image is safe... because then people can all be different by being the same.

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