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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Expressions of peace

December 12, 2007


By Sara Wykes
San Jose Mercury News

Peace is one of those ideas with as many definitions as there are people
in the world. The Dalai Lama - the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader whose
official title includes such powerful honorifics as "Ocean of Wisdom" -
has symbolized the hope of peace for millions. And in this one man, who
wears glasses and utilitarian shoes, lies a world of possibilities.

"The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama," an exhibit of work
by 88 artists from 25 countries, offers a symphony of images voiced by a
full orchestra of aesthetic instruments riffing on the powerful life
force of this religious leader.

This is not an exhibit to be rushed through like a cafeteria line.
Within the high-ceilinged spaces of the first-floor galleries at the
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the paintings, photographs, sculpture
and multimedia installations furnish long moments for meditation on the
surprising ways the artists responded to the exhibit's organizing themes.

"Why do thousands go to hear him?" said Darlene Markovich, president of
the Committee of 100 for Tibet and executive director of the show. "What
is the message? How can art help to amplify that message?

The Committee of 100 for Tibet, founded in 1992 in Palo Alto as a group
to support self-determination for the Chinese-controlled country, joined
with the Dalai Lama Foundation to bring together the organizational and
financial support to produce the exhibit. The effort began in 2000 - and
the show is planned to be on display around the world for many years.
The next stop for "Missing Peace" will be Tokyo. And there are talks
with museum officials in Moscow, Taiwan, Zagreb and Vancouver about
displaying the show. Zurich will host the exhibit in spring 2009.

Two local benefactors were instrumental in bringing the show to the Bay
Area, Markovich said: Sandra and Bernard Magnussen of Magnussen Toyota
of Palo Alto and the San Francisco-based Betlach Family Foundation.

The Bay Area has long been home to varied Buddhist communities -
including San Jose's historic Buddhist Church Betsuin, the Tassajara Zen
Mountain Center in Big Sur, the Green Gulch Farm in Marin County and the
Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. The Dalai Lama's regular visits to the Bay
Area - most recently in April - draw thousands from around the Bay and
the West Coast. The Dalai Lama Foundation is based in Redwood City and
its board members include several noted Silicon Valley figures.

Several artists in the "Missing Peace" exhibit are from the Bay Area -
one of the show's most popular works was created by David and Hi-Jin
Hodge of Half Moon Bay. The couple asked more than 100 people to talk
about change. The process would stop, the couple agreed, when their
subjects began to duplicate one another. But that never happened. And
when technical problems led the Hodges to use iPods with video screens
to display the many mini-films, this practical choice provided an
appropriate visual wallop for our gadget-culture weary eyes.

The show is structured in sections that begin with work focused on the
Dalai Lama himself. Here are photographs by Richard Avedon, Chuck Close
and Sylvie Fleury. Bill Viola's video documents a blessing from the
Dalai Lama so all can share in it.

A group of images focuses on Tibet and its people. One large canvas - it
measures 6 1/2 feet by 10 feet - is titled "Brief History of Tibet" and
its brilliant colors and intertwined images tell a story in striking

Another part of the exhibit springs from the artists' response to the
basic beliefs of Buddhism, and visitors are guided through the works
with a series of "lessons" from the Dalai Lama. "If you want others to
be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice
compassion," or "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And
if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."

With these thoughts as guideposts, visitors may find themselves opening
up to the images before them. From Ichi Ikeda's photographs of hands
cupped to hold water, with superimposed messages on the theme of water
conservation to the "World Buddha Head Project," a stack of Manhattan
phone books carved out to reveal three Buddha faces, every work sounds
mental and emotional bells.

The nature of "The Missing Peace" - founded on a spiritual leader -
clearly has had an impact on the visitor experience. Markovich has
witnessed reactions that are not typical at more standard museum fare.

"I've seen people laughing, crying, compelled to talk to the stranger
next to them to comment on the art," she said. "It's such a good feeling
- and it is the Dalai Lama doing his work in this world."

The exhibition has expanded exponentially beyond its original
parameters. Its Web site ( includes an
educational curriculum, a virtual tour and a wall of visitor responses.
In development is an electronic gallery of work done by anyone who wants
to participate by finding visual ways to express peace. Each answer will
become part of a mosaic that can be accessed in a variety of electronic

The works were originally intended to be auctioned off or to be sold as
a group for permanent installation in a museum, but that future seems to
be evolving, too. Just as the original idea for the exhibit changed in
unexpected ways, it's impossible to predict just how the exhibit will
end - or if it ever will, Markovich said. "You must let go of what you
think you want to happen and something much more wonderful could happen."

'The Missing Peace'

By Sara Wykes

Where Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St. at Third Street,
San Francisco.

When through March 16. Open noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
Friday and Saturday. Open noon to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Tickets $5-$7. Free for YBCA members. Free the first Tuesday of each month

Information (415) 978-2787.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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