Icon or Art?

Buddha Mahavairocana, pencil sketch by Roger Vincent Jasaitis, RVJart.com

Let me set the stage; The Buddha is 12 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter, sitting cross-legged with fingertips and thumbs touching in it’s lap. It was carved from 11 pieces of wood and joined together. The room was 16 feet by 20 feet, with a 14 foot ceiling height, dimly lit by back-lighting. Other than the sculpture the only things in the room were two simple benches against the wall. It felt like a small temple.

I was spending the afternoon in the Rhode Island School of Design Museum in Providence. One floor of the Museum is a collection of religious icons and artifacts from the worlds’s religions through the ages, starting with the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans, into the Hebrews, Christians, and Asian religions. I found myself walking into the above mentioned room and was struck by the enormity of the sculpture.

I sat down on the bench and decided to sketch the Buddha in pencil on my little sketchpad.  Visitors came through the room chatting and looking at the statue and me working. After a few minutes I put my pencil down and decided to meditate. I was not worshiping the Buddha. I felt that I was meditating with the Buddha, on the same path so to speak.

Upon opening my eyes 10 minutes later I found the room filled with people, standing silently, observing. I had the feeling that they were now seeing this sculpture, not as a piece of artwork, but as a true icon, a pathway to the divine, the truth. I felt sure it was what the artist had in mind when it was created.