Losang Gyatso, a man of many talents: chief of VOA's Tibetan Service (www.VOANews.com/Tibetan), a leading contemporary Tibetan artist and an actor who has appeared in a Martin Scorsese film.
Born in Tibet, Gyatso spent most of his childhood in Britain before coming to the United States to study art in 1974. After studying at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, he worked as an art director and Creative Director at ad agencies in New York for sixteen years, producing campaigns for brands such as Diet Coke, JVC and Mastercard. He was founder and director of the Mechak Center for Contemporary Tibetan Art in Boulder, Colo., before joining VOA in May 2007.
"When I heard about this opening (at VOA) I thought that this would be another way to become engaged more closely with what's happening in Tibet," said Gyatso, who was working to create a network of Tibetan artists across the world at the time. Ten years earlier, Gyatso was involved with another type of media – film. In 1997, he played Lord Chamberlain Phala in the Martin Scorsese movie "Kundun," a film about the early life of the Dalai Lama of Tibet. See preview at www.YouTube.com/watch?v=TW2USm6wTSA.
Gyatso's lifelong passion for Tibetan culture resonates in his paintings. Adorning the wall of his VOA office is one of his paintings, Ocean of Wisdom, which depicts the Dalai Lama's foot shod in a bright blue flip-flop. Encircling the flip-flop is the mandala, which in Buddhism represents a cosmic diagram within which deities reside. "Tibetans believe that he is a manifestation of Avolokiteshvara, the deity of compassion," Gyatso explained, speaking of the Dalai Lama.
He painted Ocean of Wisdom four years ago for an exhibition called Missing Peace: Artists Consider Dalai Lama, which is currently traveling around the world and can be seen online at http://gallery.tmpp.org/
The inspiration for Ocean of Wisdom was a photograph taken during the Dalai Lama's meeting with President Bush at the White House, in which he wore a pair of blue flip-flops. Gyatso said that seeing the photo underscored for him, both the Dalai Lama's humanity and his refugee status, since in traditional Tibet, he would only have worn brocade boots. Gyatso juxtaposed this image of the Dalai Lama's flip-flop clad feet with a backdrop of Avolokestevara's mandala to express the idea that in the Tibetan mind today, even 50 years since his departure from Potala Palace in Lhasa, he is unmoved from the center of his cosmic mandala. Gyatso still remains involved with the Colorado art center, which, through its Internet site www.mechak.org/, keeps Tibetan artists in touch with one another.
Meantime, to see more of Gyatso's own work, visit www.gyatsostudio.com/.
- By Snezana Pavlovic