Cultural Connections

Musings about my experiences, art, and life in Mongolia and beyond.

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Location: Ulaanbaatar, Tuv aimag, Mongolia

Native Chicagoan currently teaching in Mongolia.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Women's Day Art Exhibition"

Thursday, March 8th was International Women’s Day – a national holiday here in Mongolia. Schools and offices were closed to honor the holiday. It reminded me of Mother’s Day, but less commercial and all inclusive; all women were honored. I saw many shops selling flowers, cakes and candy for the occasion.

On short notice, I was invited to participate in an art exhibition at the National
Modern Art Gallery, along with two other women artists. As is typical in Mongolia, things were a bit unorganized and always at the last minute, but somehow the event always manages to be “pulled off”. It always amazes me. In the U.S. we would need at least one year to pull off such an event!

In the U.S., an art opening is usually a rather informal event – a small reception of wine and snacks, perhaps a toast and few words of thanks to the organizers. When I arrived at the National Gallery, there was a small crowd of people waiting, mostly friends and fellow artists, but also the museum director, tv cameras and university professors. It was a bit overwhelming! There was even a ribbon cutting. What I didn’t know was that this was the first joint Mongol-American exhibition at the museum. Information and details always seem to be slow in getting to me or unimportant (sigh). There were tv and newspaper interviews and we got quite a bit of coverage for the event. Quite a feat for Women’s Day.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I could only produce one installation for the event. A photo and artist’s statement are listed below.

“Twenty-One Praises of Tara”

As a woman artist, I have had an interest in the portrayal of women and the female form, particularly in ancient history, religion and folklore. The Goddess Tara has always fascinated.
In Mongol-Tibetan Buddhism, Tara (Tibetan: sgrol-ma) is a central Goddess figure. She protects all women. She is considered incarnate in all good women. It is believed that Tara was born from the tears of Avalokitesvara, out of his concern for the many sufferings of humankind. The twenty-one praises of Tara is just one portrayal of this Goddess.
This is my interpretation based on the concept of quilting which my mother practices. It is made of pieces of ceramic and brocade fabrics used to make Mongolian women’s dels as well as the frames for religious paintings (thangkas).
In honor of Women’s Day, I wish to dedicate this piece to my Mother, all the women in my life, and those who have touched my life in some way.

-Julie Pitzen March 8, 2007


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