This weekend the Asia Pacific Show downtown at the Gramercy Armory opens its doors to the public. With my hands busy with business cards, magazines, my camera and several thick catalogues, I can hardly do anything properly.
While attempting to organize all my papers my eyes are instantly captured like magnets by a wild-eyed winged demonic blue creature. My body completely paralyzed, I realize all that was in my hands fell to the floor. A white haired gentleman kindly helps me to pick my stuff up from the floor and suspecting my reaction smiles saying "Tibet, 17th Century, do you like it?"
"Yes," I say, "Of course, it's very impressive but who are they?" "It is the representation of Chakrasamvara and Vajrayogini, tantric Buddhist meditational deities my dear. My name is Arnold," he says, "Arnold Lieberman and this is my gallery. Welcome."
Immensely intrigued by the statue, and with all my papers nicely organized in my bag, I take my camera and take a few shots. With his extensive (more than 30 years) experience in the field of Buddhist and Hindu art and a resident of Nepal for many years, Arthur Lieberman traveled extensively in India, Tibet, Ladahk, Thailand and China -- "Indiana Lieberman-ning" with Carlos Castanedas' Journey to Ixtan, the Tibetan Book of the Dead (watch the video!) and Axis Bold as Love a la Jimi Hendix as travel guides and hymnals . He now lives in New York City where he remains a serious student of Hindu and Buddhist religion, art and culture, and is regarded within the field as a knowledgeable dealer, known for his integrity and profound sense of taste.
"The material of this sculpture purchased in Bangkok is TsaTsa," he says. "It's clay mixed with votive substances." I stop. "Votive?" I ask. "Yes, let me explain..." In a natural tone, as if he was talking about the Chinese Pecking -Duck recipe, I learned that the clay was mixed with colored pigments (polychromes) and offering bone powder from cremated Hindu holy men. "What do you mean?" I ask, "Would these holy men give permission before their death?" Arnold tells me it's not about copyrights, that yes, by being in a spiritual dimension, the one of enlightenment, it would make little difference or even at the contrary, they would be honored to contribute to the holiness of the deity statue.
Vajrayogini or Vajravarahi (Tibetan: Yidam or Sanskrit: Ishtadeva) comes to us in many forms and from various lineages. She embodies principally: first the fully enlightened female, wild, fiery, and energetic (shakti/kundalini) aspect of a Buddha; second the wisdom (experiential) aspect leading to Buddhahood; and third as a principal dakini (Tibetan: mKha' gro; "sky-goer") the (com)passionate guiding and inspirational aspect leading the practitioner to enlightenment.
Legend holds that the Buddha appeared in this form on the top of Mount Kailash to teach the Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati the Chakrasamavara Tantra, the principal of all mother Tantras of the Yoga Tantra class.
Arnold detaches my still mesmerized attention from the blue statue and shows me other objects of his "On Fire" Exhibition. A large terracotta Bhairava drinking vessel during rituals from Nepal, 19th century Buthanese Canopies, and Mongolian 19th centuryDamaru made of wood, inset bone and silk cord.
It's getting late, and I have had an more than my fill of information. I ask Arnold to pose for a picture that I will, with his permission, put in my blog.
"Of course," Mr Lieberman says, and in-spite all the Jewish-ness embedded in his name he answers, "With pleasure Joelle, but not without the little Ganesha my Lord of Success!"
The Gallery: Arnold Lieberman Buddhist & Hindu Antiques, 311 East 72 Street New York, NY 10021 tel: 1(212) 861-49-85 firstname.lastname@example.org