Thursday, February 22, 2007

Romio Shretha's Gigantic Books

The best things I saw last Saturday were Romio Shrestha's new book and his last book. They are both two feet long and commensurately wide. One of them is said to weigh only 5.5 pounds, but I have my doubts. Both books mainly comprise beautifully produced pictures of Romio's ecclesiastical paintings, and
at about eighty bucks, are way underpriced. About the rest of what I saw, here, with some added links, is
what I posted yesterday to
Sepia Mutiny:

"On Saturday, I went to ABC Home on 19th and B'way, to check out their
India promotion, and ended up taking a wrong turn into what they are calling their marigold theater for the duration of the promotion (..."our platform for arts, wisdom and healing" according to the brochure). It's a sale room hung with mostly Benarasi
at one end to form a stage, and partially peopled with random wood or alabaster murtis, mostly of Krishna and Ganesh, and strewn about with flea market chairs and variously sized cushions all upholstered in more Benarasi silks. The cushions were for the audience, who had to take off their shoes at the entrance, as if entering a temple, but actually to keep the cushions clean. One had already been offered Deepak Chopra teas, unsalted cashews and dried fruit near the entrance and told to consume them before entering the marigold theater.

Retail personnel wafted about in ghagras and dreamy expressions, acting as bouncers because Patti Smith was there. There was a collection of very large thangka-type paintings of Tara up on the walls too, by Romio Shrestha, who wore full Tibetan ceremonial dress, and, as it turned out, had become friends with Patti Smith at William Burroughs' funeral-- but that revelation came much later. I claimed a flea market chair while ABC's Creative Director made her faltering speech about being overcome by spirituality and the sound system started up with New Age violins mewling away, and wondered how this would play in India if a shop in Gurgaon were hung with ball gowns and scattered with creches and madonnas and pietas, and everybody had to sit in little gold ballroom chairs and cross themselves while a store executive talked about his admiration for the West. Anyway, there might as well have been incense, since Romio asked everyone who felt like it to close their eyes while he talked about how much the female principle was needed in the world today. Quite a few women did close their eyes, clearly confusing spirituality with self-hypnosis, while the violins went on. I realized actual religious teachings of any sort would never do for these people. When Romio had called Patti Smith a goddess the third or fourth time, it was her turn to take the mike and play and talk and sing, so the mewly music was turned off and she did her own wailing-growling thing and played her alternately musical and bizarre chord progressions, explaining that she could perform her most difficult works with ease because of the positive energy in the room. The room was of course full of people acting out their perceptions of spirituality and behaving like they had taken opium, with a few Indian onlookers at the edges wearing vacant expressions. Patti Smith explained that her last song was about William Blake, a 19th (okay) century Londoner who had addressed the inequities of his day by claiming that all people contained the Divine within --whatev, it went to show how gullible/malleable you had to be. After all this was done, and the audience told they could disperse, it turned out that all this was to sell four books, two quite remarkable and under-priced ones of Romio's paintings, so huge that only a strong man could pick up both at once, plus one by Patti Smith about her own life and -- Deepak Chopra's... Kama Sutra. I asked a woman how long she though India would be reflexively connected with this sort of spiritualty. Her eyes glossed over while she thought. 'M-m-m-m-n, forever!' she said."

Alabaster Ganesh from

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