Ruth Pasquine, PhD
artist, art historian, curator

 
Artist's Statement

I began depicting the Tibetan deities in April 2006 as I was recovering from a broken wrist, which had interrupted my art-making for a couple of months. The broken wrist was a kind of wake-up call, and it provided a lot of time to think about my life and the direction it was going in. I had taught the course Asian Art History: India, China, Japan at UCA in 2004, and had been doing a fair amount of reading in Hinduism and Buddhism, and at a certain point I found myself just really responding to Tibetan Buddhist art.Buddhism is very complicated. There are so many gods and goddesses, and Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and mahasiddas and arhats. There are peaceful deities and wrathful deities, families of Buddhas, and numerous lineages of lamas and teachers, each with his or her own teaching, rituals, and mantras. By taking an image I responded to aesthetically, researching the subject, and then reinterpreting it in pastel or paint, I have been slowly beginning to get a sense of what Buddhism is all about.

One of the most fascinating elements of Tibetan Buddhism is its relationship with psychology. For example, the wrathful deities oftentimes trample under their feet a corpse which represents the ego, and wear a necklace made up of fifty freshly severed heads which represents the ego passions and negative thoughts that have been defeated. The five skulls that make up their crown symbolize the five poisons that have been vanquished, specifically ignorance, anger, pride, attachment, and jealousy. Each of these five poisons is also represented by a family of Buddhas who can be appealed to for help in conquering them.

The wrathful deities can be explained by the idea that there are certain situations that require getting worked up about in order to address and overcome them. Sometimes we just need to call up all the energies at our disposal and really become intense. A mother will become very protective when her children are under attack. So we get out our symbolic tools–the flaming sword to cut through the veils of ignorance, the knots of illusion, and the nets of misunderstanding; the lasso to bind wisdom to us; a drum to invoke the Buddhas; paint to make an image of the being who can best help us. Most of the Tibetan deities have both peaceful and wrathful forms. For example, Padmasambhava, the eighth-century monk who did the most to establish Buddhism in Tibet, took on wrathful forms in his efforts to clear, subdue, and convert the local gods.

To appeal to the deities of Tibetan Buddhism is to call for healing, which is defined as purifying the mind from negative thoughts and emotions. In the rituals one attempts to overcome one’s situation by becoming the deity. This is begun by visualizing the deity, and this is where the use of the image comes in, because the image is so constructed with all of its symbolism, that as you visualize the deity, you review the symbolism, which reminds you of the qualities that you want to embody.

It is fascinating, then, that my journey into Tibetan Buddhist painting led me unexpectedly into the area of healing, which began as I was recovering from a broken wrist.

 

 
Biography

Ruth Pasquine brings a vast array of impressive credentials as an art historian and curator to her current project of bringing the Tibetan deities into manifestation through interpretive paintings. By making these works she is opening new pathways for energy and healing to flow into the world. This work has been recognized by being selected for inclusion in the exhibition Women to Watch 2011, organized by the Arkansas Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Her interest in Tibetan art is partially grounded in academics. She gave a series of seven lectures on the history of Tibetan art at LifeQuest, a center for life-long learning in Little Rock (2010) and taught Asian Art History at the University of Central Arkansas (2004). She also taught at Hendrix College (2003), University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (2001-3), and Pulaski Technical College (2000-1).

Another current project focuses on the Taos, NM, artist Emil Bisttram, whose occult interests were the subject of her PhD dissertation (CUNY, 2000), which was published by Lambert in 2010. Recently she gave a talk on Bisttram at a conference on theosophy and early 20th century culture at Liverpool Hope University in the U.K. (Dec. 2010).

Ruth also has wide museum experience: she worked as curator of art at the Arkansas Arts Center (1991-97); as a research assistant at the National Academy of Design, NYC (1986-88); and as an intern in the library at the Museum of Modern Art (Spring 1986). She has done a significant amount of gallery lecturing, specifically while she worked as curator of education at the Norton Museum, West Palm Beach, FL (1989-91); as a lecturer at The Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1983-86); and at the Clark Art Institute where she was studying for her MA degree in art history (1979-81).

During the 1970s Ruth produced a large body of work, primarily in the mediums of silkscreen, drawing, and photography. These works were exhibited in various juried exhibitions and at the Green Mountain Arts Collaborative, Bennington, VT, where she was a founding member and officer.

Ruth has traveled widely, including studying at the School for Foreigners at the University of Florence while an undergraduate at Franconia College (BA, 1970), traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia, to Egypt, and to England.

     
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