Picture of Peace

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Tenzin Gyatso, the son of a Tibetan farming family, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He was cited for his struggle to liberate his country while at the same time consistently opposing the use of violence, advocating instead "peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people." Tenzin Gyatso, of course, is better known to the world as the Dalai Lama, the 14th in a line of Tibetan Buddhist leaders reaching back more than 500 years.

Now, His Holiness is the inspiration for The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama, a multimedia art exhibit brought together by a Tibetan support group, the Committee of 100 for Tibet, and the Dalai Lama Foundation, an educational organization promoting peace and ethics. Reinterpreting the idea of "portrait" in this exhibit, 75 participating artists—including American multimediatrix Laurie Anderson and the late photographer Richard Avedon—used the Dalai Lama's life and principles as their guiding light, drawing a collective portrait, or vision, of peace. Some works, including Avedon's black-and-white photograph of His Holiness, take a more literal approach to the project, while Kim Soo Ja's video installment challenges viewers to take stock of the peace within themselves as they watch a six-minute clip of the artist reclining motionless on a rock.

The exhibit's organizers have planned an ambitious world tour of 18 major cities. It kicks off in June at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History in Los Angeles and will move on to Chicago, then New York City. To accompany the show, a pair of study guides—one for middle-school students and another for high schoolers—has been designed to spark further discussion about the relationship between violence and suffering, and to promote the world peace movement.

At the conclusion of the exhibit, the artists' work will be either auctioned or offered for sale, with the proceeds benefiting the Committee of 100 for Tibet and the Dalai Lama Foundation. In their mission statement, the project's organizers say they hope their work will act as a catalyst for peace, even as "peace will always be elusive, or missing, in our world."

It's an interesting point, say husband and wife filmmakers David and Hi-Jin Hodge. Will there ever be peace on the planet? The couple attempt to answer that question in a video installment, "Impermanence: The Time of Man," which features 108 interviews on the future of peace. What the Hodges found was that most people thought it to be unattainable. But, says David Hodge, perhaps peace is possible if art can be used as a talking point that stimulates an internal dialogue on the subject. "It starts with the individual," Hodge says. "And if someone can find peace within themselves, they tend to create peace all around them."

For more information about the exhibit, check out www.C100tibet.org, www.dalailamafoundation.org, and http://gallery.dlportrait.org.

Contributing editor Richard Rosen teaches yoga in Northern California.