Follow this by Email if'n you like

Jun 11, 2012

Cultural Illiteracy and Hate Mail

Mirabai, crayon wash, oil pastel, collage
I've had a website for my art for 15 years ( ) but out of all the 350+ significant and powerful works depicted there– if I do say so myself– the one that has generated the most dialog has been this image, of the 16th century Hindu mystic Mirabai. Surprise, surprise– the dialog has not been about how significant or powerful the image is!

Mirabai, a luminous poet, is well-known today in Indian culture but almost unknown in the west, Like the Buddha, she left a pampered life as a princess to go into the wilderness seeking the Divine. Legend says that she (as well as other women mystics for the bhakti sect) would wander naked through rural villages singing her songs of praise to the god she calls Giridhara. Though no one can know her motivations for sure, obviously she had a profound impact. I am living proof, as through the mists of history she has inspired me like no other person! In Hinduism I have found the best examples in the historic record of appearance of the radical sanctity of the body.

So it is with sadness that I find it is Hindus who object to this painting, on the grounds that nudity = degradation (click here to read the letters). Fear of the flesh is nearly universal among Western religions, which have covered the body out of fear of its beauty and power, so this is no surprise. But how can genuine illumination come alive in a place where fear and depravity rules? How can ugliness be transformed into beauty? Unlike reading illiteracy, which can be cured with simple education, this kind of cultural illiteracy can only be cured form the inside out. The ability to care or to see beauty comes not from encouragement (though that helps) but from a deep gratitude and joy from within. Like life itself, no one can give it to anyone else!

These Hindus want me to destroy this work because they can see nothing but depravity in it. I find this tragic (and common!) and I do feel sorry but no one else can help them. All of us must find beauty by coming alive– or not– on our own.
Post a Comment

Blog Archive

Tim Holmes Studio

My photo

I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.