Chrysanne Stathacos, a Buddhist artist based in New York and Toronto, is best known for her Rose Mandala series. She made one for the Dalai Lama when he attended the 2006 conference Law, Buddhism, and Social Change at the University of Buffalo and now she has made another to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Garrison Institute, a retreat center in New York state, which offers a wide range of programs, such as an upcoming retreat with Tsoknyi Rinpoche, “Wisdom in Aging: Waking Up to the Mind and Revitalizing the Subtle Body,” (September 20-26) and the annual Jewel Heart retreat with Gelek Rinpoche (October 11-14).
Stathacos’ Rose Mandalas range from ten to sixty feet in diameter, and she makes them by plucking apart roses and circling the petals around mirrors. When the mandalas are fresh, they’re florally fragrant. Then over time the petals shrivel. Finally, the mandalas are dismantled in a ritual performance; they’re swept up or blown away with human breath.
In the words of the accomplished Buddhist nun and author Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, “The Rose Mandalas symbolize the gradual unfolding of our innate spiritual potential. Conversely, these mandalas remind us of the inherent impermanence of even the beautiful.”
In the current issue of the Shambhala Sun, I profile Chrysanne Stathacos along with two other Buddhist-inspired visual artists: Miya Ando, the descendent of a samurai sword maker who works primarily with steel, and Sanford Biggers, the creator of mandala dance floors. This is an excerpt from that article:
Chrysanne Stathacos looked over the fence and saw a man in yellow and maroon robes jumping up and down in her friend’s yard. It was the spring of 1975 in Vancouver, and this was the first Tibetan lama she had ever seen.
Later that day, the lama was going to give a public teaching, and Stathacos piled into the car with her friend, the lama, and the lama’s translator. When they stopped at a red light, however, Stathacos suddenly bolted from the car. “It’s not time for me to do this yet,” she blurted out.
Now Stathacos speculates that she wasn’t ready to go with the lama in 1975 because her focus was so much on art that she had nothing to spare for spiritual life. She was only five years old when she announced to her mother that she was an artist and “that was that,” she says.