‘Healing Practices: Stories From Himalayan Americans’ to Open at The Rubin Museum of Art



Hua Khar Jaintsa (active 1990s); Course of the Lifespan Principle (chapter 4 cont.); Rebgong, Amdo Province, Northeastern Tibet (Tongren, Qinghai Province, China); 1995–1996; pigments on cloth; gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection; C2014.9.12

On March 18, 2022, the Rubin Museum of Art will present “Healing Practices: Stories from Himalayan Americans,” a new exhibition highlighting the diverse ways that Tibetan Buddhist artworks and practices have served as roadmaps to well-being. The exhibition juxtaposes objects from the Rubin Museum’s collection with stories from Himalayan Americans, revealing the many ways these living traditions are transformed and adopted for today’s world, especially in times of crisis. “Healing Practices: Stories from Himalayan Americans” is the Rubin Museum’s first collaborative exhibition with a Community Advisory Group and will be on view March 18, 2022 to January 16, 2023.

“Opening two years after the start of the biggest global pandemic our generation has seen, this exhibition aims to bring the topic of healing to the forefront,” says Michelle Bennett-Simorella, Director of Curatorial Administration and Collections. “Healing is about overcoming discomfort or pain and rebalancing the mind and body to equilibrium. It can be, at times, a seemingly unsurmountable process during which we gain a better understanding of ourselves, others, and the world around us. This exhibition explores what the practices of healing in Tibetan Buddhism have to offer to individuals and society, as well as the meaningful ways people move forward after a collective experience of trauma.”

Parnashvari, Goddess of Natural Healing; Central Tibet; 19th century; pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art, C2003.36.3 (HAR 65302)

Practices for healing and well-being vary across the world. In Tibetan Buddhism, mental, physical and spiritual well-being are interdependent, and can only be achieved through a variety of holistic practices, from ritual to medicinal, that restore balance to these three aspects. This inclusive approach, which considers the individual and their environment, is a life-long pursuit to confront the “root cause” of suffering.

Practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism turn to Himalayan Buddhist artworks for their symbolic nature and for visual guidance around practices that prevent, heal, and aid in longevity, which support improvements in psycho-physical energy. Organized around these central themes with over 25 objects from the Rubin Museum’s collection, the show explores traditional and contemporary Himalayan practices—such as rituals, visualization techniques, physical exercises, prayers, meditation, and medicinal treatments—for healing physical, mental, and emotional ailments. Artworks will be coupled with stories and ephemera from Himalayan Americans sharing their own experiences with healing, both spiritual and secular, over the last two years. In this way, “Healing Practices” encourages visitors to reflect on their own healing journeys and highlights the ways living traditions inspire, transform, and empower individuals today.

“Healing Practices” was developed in collaboration with a Himalayan American and Asian American Community Advisory Group, which includes New York tristate area and DC artists, medical professionals, spiritual leaders, activists, educators, and art therapists interested in the intersection between art, healing, and activism. The group includes community activist Aatish Gurung; educator and director at YindaYin Chime Dolma; Tibetan medicine doctor and head of the Kunye Healing Center Dr. Kunga Wangdue; community spiritual leader and director of the Center for Universal Peace Geshe Tashi Dorje; art therapist and director of the Graduate Art Therapy Program at New York University Ikuko Acosta; independent researcher and director of the Himalayan Language and Culture Program Nawang Gurung; healthcare worker and head of the Tibetan Nursing Association Pema Dorje; artist and creative director of the Yakpo Collective Tsewang Lhamo; and community activist and director of Partnerships and Philanthropy at the Bhutan Foundation Tshering Yangzom.

Tara Protecting from the Eight Fears. Origin: Khao Province, Southeastern Tibet. Date: late 19th ~ early 20th century. Credit: Rubin Museum of Art, gift of Dr. Michael Henss, Zurich

“Healing Practices: Stories from Himalayan Americans” is organized by Michelle Bennett-Simorella, Director of Curatorial Administration and Collections, in collaboration with the Community Advisory Group. The Rubin Museum is located at 150 West 17th Street, NYC.

While you’re there, don’t miss the new Mandala Lab, encompassing the entire third floor.

Can’t make it? Look inside The Rubin Museum of Art online collection.