Kwan Yin's Priestess
In art as in life, I have worked with the Buddhist deity of compassion known as Avalokiteshvara in the Buddha's time in India and as Kwan Yin in China. Kwan Yin is the bodhisattva who made a great vow to listen to the sounds of all sentient beings and to postpone her own Buddhahood, which would have taken her away from this life, until she has assisted every being on Earth in achieving nirvana. Kwan Yin is known as 'Perceiver of the Cries of the World.' Very much like the Christian Mary, she exists to envelop the world in her mercy, compassion, and unconditional love. It is this spirit I tried to embody for Threads of Peace, a collaborative performance.
Threads of Peace was conceived by Deep Listening friend Julia White for a festival of works inspired by the teaching of composer Pauline Oliveros. Sitting with eyes closed in the middle of a line of women who were chanting from pages of a book of war stories, I humbly portrayed Kwan Yin. I designed my costume to illustrate the premise of Deep Listening: the ears of my headdress are extended into wings, 'ear-wings.' The 11 sticks are related not only to Kwan Yin's 11 heads but also to a Deep Listener's work with listening sticks. The rest of the outfit emphasized the priestess/ritual nature of this performance. The stole is embroidered with tear-beads and the Bodhisattva's mantra, Om Pani Padme Hum, often translated as "Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus." On top of my head is a Buddha, the Boddhisattva of Compassion, which is often represented in artwork.