Author Topic: A Buddha, Full of Air, Sits Serenely on the Waves  (Read 3942 times)


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A Buddha, Full of Air, Sits Serenely on the Waves
« on: October 14, 2012, 12:25:19 PM »

Isn't it wonderful to have these inflatable Buddhas all over the world? They are so subtle and serene, makes me wanna go to the park and meditate there. With the cool breeze and sun shining brightly... They should have more of these inflatable Buddha sculptures. If some people think that it is provocative, maybe they can have other type of gods in the same manner? Something to suit everyone! 

If only, they can paint the eyes on it, then the beings who see Him will be planted with a seed. Isn't it wonderful?

A Buddha, Full of Air, Sits Serenely on the Waves

The 10-foot-high inflatable Buddha sat on a wooden lily pad in a cove of the East River, bobbing gently back and forth on the ripples of the tide.

On a late September day, its translucent plastic skin glittered with the changing patterns of sunlight and clouds. The stone lighthouse of Roosevelt Island and the steel and glass towers of Manhattan rose in the distance.

When a gust of wind came, the Buddha sculpture strained at the ropes that secured it to its floating platform. Its broad face and rounded body tilted skyward, and drops of water cascaded from its lap. But when the breeze stilled, so did the Buddha, riding out the changes with cross-legged equanimity.

From the rocky shoreline, a steady trickle of dog walkers, tourists, workers on their breaks and other visitors paused to watch the Buddha ride the tide.

Many said the Buddha artwork, “Floating Echo,” seemed to intensify the sense of peace they regularly found at the Socrates Sculpture Park, a four-and-a-half-acre patch of trees and grass on an industrial stretch of Long Island City, Queens. “The Buddha, he’s just chilling, you know, just chilling out there, thinking,” said Brandon Polanco, 25, a filmmaker who was stretching on the grass after a run. He had taken a photo of the Buddha sculpture in which it shone like a crystal against the skyline.

“In the background, you see the whole entire city, and he’s just quietly sitting on the water,” Mr. Polanco said. “It puts some perspective on things.”

As a public park run by a nonprofit corporation, the Socrates Sculpture Park regularly hosts playful, provocative outdoor art displays that change with the seasons. “Floating Echo,” by Chang-Jin Lee, a Korean-born visual artist who lives in New York City, is part of an exhibition by emerging artists. The show’s debut was on Sept. 9, and it will remain, if it survives the weather, until March.

Religion is often, like economics or culture, a subject of the public art at the park, said John Hatfield, the park’s executive director. A short walk from the Buddha, for example, was a statue of the Virgin Mary made of birdseed; it changes each day with the pecks of twittering sparrows. “Religion is a part of our lives, and therefore it’s a part of what artists are sometimes interested in exploring, philosophically, politically, spiritually,” Mr. Hatfield said.

“Floating Echo” works on several levels, he said. It invites reflection on Buddhist ideas of tranquillity and detachment, as it comes alive on the waves, while remaining in balance. Yet on another level, it is a kitsch object. “After all, it is an inflated, plastic balloon,” he said. The Buddha as kitsch is everywhere, he added — in bodegas, in garden ornaments. “Why is that O.K.?” he said. Is there something about Buddhist philosophy, he wondered, that makes that “perfectly fine”?

Because the sculpture has not gotten much notice, most people who come to the small park are not expecting, when they come down a gentle slope toward the river, to see it there. Many react by taking photos, which they promptly post to Instagram or Twitter. Some try to adjust their own pace to try to be like the sculpture itself, going with the flow amid the chaos of the city.

Taeko Shioiri, 37, a Buddhist from Japan who was flying kites in the park with her two sons, said that while she saw “Floating Echo” as an artistic object, “for really religious people, maybe it could be a little bit provocative.”

But for Kissor Sherpa, 50, a Buddhist from Nepal, it seemed to bring personal delight. He had dropped by the park on Saturday afternoon carrying a heavy bag from his shift working at a local gym. While other visitors snapped photographs, he stood reverentially for several minutes, surprised to see the Buddha there, and smiled deeply when asked for his opinion. Buddhist temples are often in remote areas, he noted. “So this place is good.”

Religious or not, people did find themselves reflecting on spiritual themes as they watched the Buddha. Haesang Cho, 26, a graphic designer who identified herself as Catholic, said she found herself wondering if her God and the Buddha were one. She spent several moments in dialogue with the sculpture, she said. “I was asking, ‘What kind of message do you want to give me?’ ”

Nina Svensen, 31, brought her parents, who were visiting from Denmark, to see the sculpture — and she was simply glad it was still intact. 

“We didn’t think it would survive this long,” she said. “We were here on the 9th of September, and we thought for sure someone would have punctured it by now.”