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Avatar Art: Neo-Vedic Paintings Celebrating Life by Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa) and co-author Kaisori Bellachoffers a beautiful artistic smorgasbord of the most popular figures in India’s array of avatars, gods, sages, and demons. The alluring paintings of which this volume is comprised, portrayed by contemporary artists, focus on stories from the Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), the Mahabharata, and the Caitanya-caritamrta. The text illuminates the art.
Here, at last, is a BBT art book that reads like an art book. More than just another volume of “painting, lila-explanation, painting, lila-explanation,” this work not only elaborates on the content of the paintings but also explains the art in terms of actually being works of art. Why was one particular color used as opposed to another? How does this compare to a similar painting in the Western tradition? These sorts of questions often lead to thought-provoking answers.
Overall, this book insightfully brings to bear the spiritual in art both from Eastern and Western theological perspectives, finally explaining Vaishnava art in some accessible context. Satyaraja Prabhu was a student at the High School of Art and Design and then majored in fine art and painting at New York Community College before joining the Hare Krishna Movement. This informs his writing in this particular book, his latest among his 30-some-odd titles.
The book opens with a lengthy Introduction explaining the basic principles of bhakti (devotion) and rasa (relationship) and how these two deeply spiritual ideas impact art in general. From there we learn about “spiritual art in the West,” briefly exploring the work of everyone from Kandinsky to Rothko. The authors show how most spiritual art is dominated by abstraction and seeing God in nature, largely because specific information about God and His personal form are lacking.
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