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Tenzing Rigdol: My World Is In Your Blind Spot

Tenzing Rigdol’s work comments on the political turmoil of Tibet.
Photos: Tomás Bernal · The Sentry

CU alumnus has solo show at Emmanuel Gallery

“I’m nervous because some of my professors are here tonight,” Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol said at his opening at the Emmanuel Art Gallery. 

When Emmanuel Gallery Director Jeff Lambson picked up the artist Tenzing Rigdol from the airport, he was worried that they would get stuck in Denver traffic on their way back from DIA. They did get stuck, but Lambson said he has never been so grateful to be in traffic. According to Lambson, it is very rare to feel more at peace in traffic jams than out of them, but talking to Tenzing about his profound perspective on life, it is so.

Tenzing Rigdol carries a tangible tranquility with him that can be felt by those he’s around. Tenzing was enrolled at CU Denver in 2001.  He graduated in 2005 with a BFA in painting and drawing. 

“We’re thrilled to have Tenzing Rigdol here at the Emmanuel Art Gallery and have his work in his space,” Jeff Lambson said of the internationally acclaimed artist.   

“Art makes you more liberal, more open, more tolerant. It improves your ability to listen to other’s stor[ies]… There is nothing if there is no art. It buffers space between individuals for opinions to resolve issues. It’s what makes us human, not only as a creator, but participation is beautiful.”

Rigdol was born in Kathmandu when his parents fled occupied Tibet in the 1960s during the Chinese occupation. They’re now exiled from Tibet. Although born in Nepal, and never being allowed in Tibet, Tenzing’s artwork carries a great sympathetic sentiment towards his family’s homeland. His spiritual upbringing is evident in both his pieces and in himself. It’s difficult for Tenzing not to include his philosophical and political ideas in his work. 

After the Chinese invasion of Tibet (according to the Tibetan government), or the peaceful liberation of Tibet (according to the Chinese government), the country was left without much of its culture. The Chinese government destroyed much of Tibet’s ancient artwork and artifacts. My World Is In Your Blind Spot curator and expert in Asian art, Sarah Magnatta, observes contemporary Asian art through an educated perspective. “I’ve been a fan of Tenzing’s work for the last 15 years…His work is not only breathtakingly beautiful, but his work is also very important politically,” Magnatta said. His images balance ancient traditional Tibetan techniques with political and social contemporary ideas.

The show features five large mixed media panels with large intricate Buddhas on them. Their dress is made of intricate textiles, their backgrounds are Tibetan scripture, but their bodies are made of flames. These flames directly acknowledge the 155 Tibetan monks who have self-immolated since 2009. 

The ultimate destructive sacrifice, these pieces juxtapose traditional beauty with aggressive political and social violence. The Tibetan monks portrayed in these pieces set themselves on fire to bring attention to the cruel oppression the Chinese government has imposed on Tibet. The Buddhist manuscript behind the monk forms both a religious statement and a political one.   

Aesthetically ornate and undeniably beautiful, these Buddhas juxtapose violent aggressive imagery with images that evoke peace and mindfulness. 

The show also features a piece titled “Change the Celebration.” The painting shows a deconstructed and reconstructed dragon. In 2005, this painting was shown in the Emmanuel Art Gallery in a student exhibition. Fourteen years later, it has made its journey back into the gallery. At the time, only a student work, “Change the Celebration” now not only acknowledges the progression in Tenzing’s work but testifies to his long-standing social ideas that he has continued to represent in his work.

“Not much has changed (on campus) except maybe a few new buildings. I could still see myself in many places,” Tenzing said.

My World is in Your Blind Spot will be on view through June 7.

Photos: Tomás Bernal · The Sentry

Photos: Tomás Bernal · The Sentry

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