For Tibetan monks, the act of creating an intricate work of art and then destroying it represents the meaning behind the spiritual symbols that they are crafting out of sand. Buddhist tradition encourages us to contemplate the fact that mandalas and everything material is impermanent.
Starting this week "The Mind's Eye," a photographic narrative of Tibetan sand mandalas, will be showcased in the gallery at the Center for Ethics. The exhibit is brought to us by Myron McGhee, photographer, musician, and circulation specialist at Pitts Theology Library, and his wife Juana Clem McGhee, curator and academic department administrator in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies. The McGhee's and their children have been witnessing the sand mandala ceremony that has taken place at Emory for the past ten years. Mr. McGhee has captured the process with thousands of photos. McGhee has selected pieces that give crisp and colorful representation of the time consuming process of laying down the sand and then the mandala as it is swept away soon after.
In one conversation Ms. McGhee describes the project in that, "it is intriguing to assemble an exhibit of photographs depicting sand mandalas, since it involves juxtaposing a relatively modern and “permanent” art form, with an ancient art form which is intended to be at least in part an expression of “impermanence.”' As Tibetan monks have described the healing that the mandala inspires, they remember their own struggles as refugees. Mr. McGhee sheds light on the power of photography by saying, "a photograph extracts a cross section of time, providing a means for the viewer to revisit a moment that has come and gone."
Through this exhibition, it is our hope to translate the challenges of understanding social justice through pictures that not only show vibrant colors but tell a story about Tibetan culture and the spiritual insights that we can all benefit from.
The Mind's Eye Exhibit is one of three exhibits to be displayed at the Center for Ethics this semester as part of the Ethics & the Arts Initiative.