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.
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.