Asian Arts | Exhibitions | About Nancy Jo Johnson

Survival of the Spirit
Tibet a Decade of Images

Nancy Jo Johnson

Indigo Gallery, Kathmandu Nepal
Opening reception Friday August 28, 1998, 5:30pm
to be opened by the American Ambassador to Nepal H. E. Ralph Frank

Click on any image to view in full with caption

"On May 29, 1997, His Holiness the Dalai Lama delivered a speech at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York city. In it, he appealed for harmony in the diversity of our world: He spoke against violence, and for a more compassionate society. He reminded us that intellectual debate encourages creativity. He insisted that responsible action by individuals does make a difference.

"SURVIVAL OF THE SPIRIT, Tibet a Decade of Images" is a culmination of photographic images that records the tragic conditions inside Tibet and the triumphant survival of the Tibetan people in exile. It is an inspirational, spiritual voyage that ties together the many strands of this complex story.

The 25 photographs assembled in "SURVIVAL OF THE SPIRIT" dramatize the conflicts which have smoldered in Tibet through decades of Chinese oppression. Some document Tibet itself with a direct artfulness, others poignantly illustrate the despair and the passion experienced by the Tibetans as they leave their homeland in search of a more hopeful future.

#17-Sera Monastery
Sera Monastery, 1993 (#17)

In #17, the striking image of The Dalai Lama's photograph being cradled by a Tibetan laborer outside Sera Monastery depicts a sense of sadness which disturbs the overwhelming purity. This act of devotion is illegal, carrying a penalty of imprisonment. #25 portrays a young boy diligently studying, carrying the weight of Tibet's future survival in a free world. Survival of the spirit is a deepening challenge the Tibetans face as they are scattered throughout the world in an existence they occupy as refugees without a homeland to return to.

Dharamsala, India, 1995 (#25)
Dharamsala, India, 1995 (#25)

My own motivation in organizing this exhibition is deeply marked by the personal responsibility I feel as a witness to the suffering in Tibet, and by the knowledge that this effort will ultimately circle back to the daily plight of a people on the other side of the Himalayas trapped in inhumane circumstances. His Holiness consistently reminds us that this is a very critical time for Tibet; his plea for help from the world community must especially be heard now. The U.S. government is opening its dialog with China more then ever, the economic potential directs the motivation, and overshadows the issue of Tibet, especially with China making official guarantees that precisely echo those made to Tibet in 1951. Meanwhile, we must remember that responsible action does indeed make a difference. I hope that this is evidenced by what is experienced by viewers today.

In the Himalaya and on the Tibetan Plateau, one is confronted in a profound way with the enigmatic nature of being alive. This mystifying experience lies somewhere between one's incessant preoccupation with the extreme physical discomforts of survival and the local belief systems that promote the idea that all things are, by their nature, empty. The effect is a physiological experience that makes it difficult to deny one's interrelationship, not just with the environment but with 'emptiness' as well. And as an artist, this experience is important in the process of creation; after all, emptiness is the womb from which form becomes manifest and through which the aesthetic experience becomes aware of itself..."

Nancy Jo Johnson

#32-Tibet 1997 #11-Tibetan Plateau, 1993
Tibet, 1997 (#32) Tibetan Plateau, 1993 (#11)

#13-West Tibet, 1993 #6-Lhasa, Tibet, 1993
West Tibet, 1993 (#13) Lhasa, Tibet, 1993 (#6)

#4-Lhasa Tibet, 1993 #5-Nagchu, Tibet, 1993
Lhasa Tibet, 1993 (#4) Nagchu, Tibet, 1993 (#5)

#18-Lhasa, Tibet, 1993 #3-Tingri, Tibet, 1995
Lhasa, Tibet, 1993 (#18) Tingri, Tibet, 1995 (#3)

Asian Arts | Exhibitions | About Nancy Jo Johnson

text and images © Nancy Jo Johnson