February 18, 2010

Silk Road Buddha

Zen student and talented Chicago sculptor Jennifer Dickson has been commissioned to create Korinji's honzon - the main image venerated on the altar. At Korinji this will be Shakyamuni, accompanied by the Bodhisattvas Monju (Manjusri) and Fugen (Samantabhadra).

A 10" high maquette is nearing completion, and gives some sense of the process of design on which Jen has worked so closely with us. We knew early on that we did not want a completely Japanese-style sculpture, just as we are not replicating a Japanese monastery structure: somehow these don't completely fit the Wisconsin woods. And so we strive for designs which preserve the form and spirit of our roots yet feel more organically at home here in the Midwest.

In considering sculptures, we've been inspired not only by Japanese and Indian precedents but also by the Gandharan styles that arose in what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan. These areas, marking the eastern-most extent of Alexander the Great's conquests, were the scenes of much cultural contact and ferment. The Buddhist sculptures from that region have a uniquely mixed Asian-Greek pedigree, bringing together eastern and western aesthetics in a sometimes shockingly beautiful manner that can feel very accessible to westerners.

So, here is the beginning of what will be our Buddha statue. Once finalized, work will begin on the final piece: three feet tall, fired terracotta, likely to be covered in a copper leaf that will darken and patina with age.

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