Making a statue of Kali,
Day and night cutting off the un-needed,
Just as she does…
She is emerging now,
I am the first to hold her fierce gaze,
I am offering my delusions to the Goddess,
To test her razor-sharp weapons.
Recently I have spent about a month and a half volunteering at the Dream Community art center in Taipei, Taiwan. I was helping with decorations for India museum, when Akash, the guy in charge, mentioned about needing a statue of Hindu goddess Kali for the coming performance. Something in me just jumped, I knew I needed to make Kali!
She is fearsome in appearance, yet very similar in symbolic meaning to my favorite deity from the Buddhist world – Boddhisatva Manjushri. They both signify THE CHANGE, deep and profound cleansing – massive and sometimes violent destruction of old, fake, illusory – everything that needs to go before THE REAL can take its rightful place!
They both are the destructive energies in the world, fearless warriors of Enlightenment, scary, yet absolutely necessary. Because the real Enlightenment is, before all – the Destruction, the Death of the old, The End of all delusions… And those delusions actually make probably 90% of our habitual world-view! My favorite spiritual teacher Adyashanti often calls Enlightenment “the demolition project” – and guess who is there to do the Demolition?
Buddhists’ Manjushri is usually portraited with a sword, but Hinduism Kali has the whole terrifying arsenal of swords, spears, and daggers – for the delusions of all sizes! And four hands (sometimes more) to hold it all plus a scary looking severed demon’s head.
Despite my lack of experience with sculpture (I am a painter), the guys at the center trusted me with a huge block of styrofoam from which I was to release Kali and unleash her onto the unsuspecting world. So, I’ve started (and couldn’t help myself to pose in traditional Kali’s posture).
Soon, it became clear that finding that human-sized figure in the vastness of styrofoam was not a small task, I was constantly afraid of chopping off too much and it took what seemed like ages to get to the essential shape. Plus, I was really confused with her 4 arms, how on Earth could I make them look more or less natural?
To make her more steady I changed the position from traditionally standing on one leg to seated, which unleashed another set of human anatomy related challenges. I didn’t have a model so had to model myself (no wonder she came out looking slightly… hmm… well-fed).
After a week of hard work, the shape peaking from a mountain of styrofoam offcuts started to look something like Kali I was envisioning! I was working frantically with little breaks with strange, single-minded determination, as if the real Kali, her fierce, massive energy somehow was channeling through my hands…
Another week has passed, and finally… she was kind of ready! I could have gone on and on refining and fine-tuning, but having limited time at the center I had to say “stop” at some stage, even though I wasn’t entirely satisfied. I wanted her to be beautiful, but in a fierce, slightly scary way, like a lioness, powerful, strong and uncompromising.
I covered the styrofoam with cement plaster and painted with acrylics. The guys at the center completely recycled the styrofoam offcuts for another project. She looked slightly un-human with her enormous green eyes looking just pass you…
And so she is out! The farewell shot together at the Haloween party… I left the center very soon after and she is still there, overseeing, protecting, facilitating THE CHANGE… Sometimes, subtly I still feel her near, as if she is not just a large blue styrofoam doll…