Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Via Lions Roar: 10,000 Buddhas and Counting

Inspired by ancient Buddhist artwork on cave walls, Amanda Giacomini set out on a mission to paint 10,000 Buddhas all over America. Lilly Greenblatt tells her story.

 


Artist and yoga teacher Amanda Giacomini only saw the inspiration behind her social-media-famous art project, Ten Thousand Buddhas, for a matter of seconds, but those few seconds have kept her painting ever since.

While studying Ashtanga yoga in South India in late 2006, Giacomini visited the Ajanta Caves, a historic site of a series of over 30 Buddhist rock-cut cave monuments and painted murals dating back to the 2nd century. The walls of the caves depict the traditional Jataka tales, which describe the Gautama Buddha’s previous lives.

As Giacomini walked through the dark caves, a guide scanned the walls with a flashlight, moving quickly to protect the precious images from light exposure. For a few seconds, a painting of 1,000 buddhas sitting together was illuminated before her. In the years to come, these little buddhas wouldn’t leave her mind.

“It wasn’t the most sophisticated of all the paintings in the caves,” says Giacomini, “but the buddhas were so captivating because it was all hand-done. All of their little faces all had different expressions and their hands were in different mudras.”

“It stuck with me for many years. It planted a little seed in my mind,” she says.

Years later, in 2012, Giacomini found herself still thinking of those 1,000 ancient buddhas. She set out to create her own version of the painting.
“I loved the image and I wanted to be around it more, but I couldn’t go back to India. I was going to just do a big painting for myself,” she says.
Her first painting, eight feet by four feet, took Giacomini almost a year to complete. It depicted just 99 buddhas. As difficult as it was to paint, Giacomini says she found the act of painting the little buddhas to be calming and meditative. Giacomini decided to paint 10,000 buddhas — an ambition that, at the time, seemed impossible.