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Why the Buddha?

Artist Statement

For over a decade, I have used the emerging Buddha image as a symbol of my search for peace and self-realization. The image of the Buddha growing out of the earth represents for me the spiritual growth that we all struggle to achieve as we travel lifeís path. I was deeply moved by the response that I received to my emerging Buddha sculpture installations at the Chicago Cultural Center, in down town Chicago (2008) and the Art Center, Highland Park (2009). People said that they felt a sense of calm and peacefulness and this became the genesis for the Ten Thousand Ripples Project (TTR).

We at Ten Thousand Ripples have spent the last 18 months talking to community organizations, artists and residents in ten Chicago area communities. The TTR representation of the Buddha rising out of the ground continues to be a catalyst, generating interactions and conversations about safety, cultural understanding, interfaith dialog and peace.

The TTR image is one of many peace symbols from various cultures and faith traditions. It is based on the historical Buddha whose teachings are followed by millions of people around the world. While symbols like a dove or an olive branch are equally emblematic of peace, neither are as visually compelling as the image of a rising Buddha with its serene countenance in unexpected urban landscapes reinforcing that peace can be found in the most mundane places.

One can see why this iconic image has appeared in numerous Western public art venues including Berlin, London, Los Angles and New York. Most recently, Zhang Huanís colossal Buddha Three Heads, Six Arms was welcomed in San Franciscoís Civic Center Plaza where it stayed for 6 months and was recently returned to its home in Shanghai. TTR is also a temporary project and will culminate in an exhibition at Loyola Museum of Art in July of 2013.

The meaning of an image is contingent upon its context and the context that we are creating for this image is the vibrant life of Chicago's diverse communities. We have actively connected with community organizations in the various neighborhoods where the TTR sculptures will be located. Both secular- and religiously-based organizations have and will continue to be invited to community dialogues on nonviolent solutions to urban problems and developing cooperation within and among our diverse urban communities. In such a context the Buddha image is an invitation to reflect on the possibility of an end to violence and the emergence of peace, an invitation to draw upon our own individual and communal resources in addressing this issue.

-Indira Freitas Johnson