LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ7) In the Staniar Gallery at Washington and Lee, there's a new exhibit. It’s called “Buddha’s Picnic,” and as you might imagine from the title, it’s not your average art display.
When they installed it, it looked more like setting up the gallery for a picnic.
Tibetan artist Gonkar Gyatso doesn’t want you to just look at his art. He wouldn’t mind if you snacked on it.
“Since it’s a picnic," Gyatso says softly. "Because Tibetans are well known for their picnics.”
His work combines the sacredness of a shrine – something you see everywhere in his native Tibet – with bits of pop culture.
“Hopefully it will show the change that comes with the popular culture in Tibet,” he explains.
“It’s not the usual thing that happens in a gallery or a museum space," says Melissa Kerin, a professor of art history at Washington and Lee University. "So it is wonderful in that way.”
And so, while you’ll find Buddha at the shrine, you’ll also find a picture of China’s President Xi Jinping and My Little Ponies along with those snacks and drinks.
“Some of the students or teacher during lunchtime, they can bring their lunch and sit here and lunch and listen to some of the prayers," says Gyatso. "Some of the instruments will be making lots of noise of different kinds of prayers, and even religious songs.”
“So he wants people to be involved," says Kerin. "He wants it to almost be a happening, something that develops and changes over time.”
Assuming the visitors understand that this ain’t your average gallery show.
“I’m sure they will get it,” Gyatso says.