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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Disperse
Date: 2015
Medium: Gouache on paper, overlaid with rice paper perforated by burning with incense
Dimensions: Sheet: 84.7 x 81.3 cm (33 3/8 × 32 inches)
Credit Line: Acquired through the George and Mary Rockwell Fund
Object Number: 2016.012
Label Text: At a young age, Tulku Jamyang was recognized as a tulku—a reincarnated lama (spiritual teacher)—and embarked on a monastic life. He travelled internationally to teach Tibetan Buddhist philosophy before becoming an artist. TJ, as he calls himself, creates his images by carefully using incense to burn small holes into the kind of paper traditionally utilized for copying scriptures. Burning incense, typically associated with the act of prayer, became for him a symbol of dying or decaying practice.

TJ uses art to expose how people and traditions change over time. In Disperse he draws attention to the plight of the Tibetan language, which is being lost both in the exile community and in the Tibetan homeland. In this mandala-like image, the Tibetan alphabet is randomly scattered surrounding five masks, while muted colors coming through the perforations are all that can be seen of the brightly painted seed syllables on the layer of paper beneath. Through this artwork TJ calls on the Tibetan community to focus its efforts on saving their language, which is key to preserving Tibetan heritage.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.