Art Notes: Nepali Artist Paints in Baker Library

  • Paint marks the hand of Nepali artist Tenzin Norbu where he blended colors while working on a painting in Dartmouth's Baker Library in Hanover, N.H., Thursday, January 19, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Nepali artist Tenzin Norbu talks with Carlene Hughes, of Hanover, about his work while painting in Dartmouth's Baker Library in Hanover, N.H., Thursday, January 19, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Nepali artist Tenzin Norbu, center right, talks with Kesang Tashi, of Hanover, center left, as Ted Campbell, of Dartmouth Facilities, Operations and Management, left, passes by on his way to varnish chair rails in Dartmouth's Baker Library in Hanover, N.H., Thursday, January 19, 2017. Norbu spent the day working on a painting of a nursing mother in the library's main hall. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Nepali artist Tenzin Norbu paints a fine line on a painting while working in Dartmouth's Baker Library in Hanover, N.H., Thursday, January 19, 2017. The painting depicts a nursing mother, a bowl of barley soup, water, and working animals, all of which represent the sustenance of life to Norbu. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/26/2017 12:05:16 AM
Modified: 1/26/2017 12:05:23 AM

Last Thursday, the Nepali artist Tenzin Norbu sat cross-legged on the floor of Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth College, and leaning forward used a small paintbrush with hairs as fine as cat whiskers to trace thin black lines onto a canvas showing a nursing mother and child set against a backdrop of a flowing river and craggy peaks.

Norbu, who lives in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, was at the college in conjunction with the exhibition “Tibetan and Himalayan Lifeworlds,” which was curated by Kenneth Bauer and Sienna Craig.

Both Bauer and Craig teach in the college’s Anthropology Department and have spent years studying in the Himalayan region. The exhibition is on view in the Baker-Berry corridor through March 31.

Norbu was at the library two days last week to give a demonstration of his technique and style to passers-by. He also visited classes and had a pop-up exhibition of some of his work at the Black Family Visual Arts Center.

Internationally, Norbu’s work has been exhibited in Denmark, Paris, New York, Switzerland and Japan, and it was also part of the traveling exhibition “Tradition Transformed: Tibetan Artists Respond,” which was shown at the Hood Museum of Art in 2010.

Norbu paints in the venerable Tibetan thangka tradition, which refers to a painting, usually on silk or cotton that shows the Buddha or other Buddhist deities, and which serves a devotional, meditative purpose.

Norbu’s painting of a mother and child is not specifically religious, he said in an interview, but it is intended to convey a mood of harmony. And for students, he said, smiling, it may remind them that their parents miss them.

Mother and child are at the center of the large linen canvas. The mother holds her nursing infant son in the crook of her left arm and with her right hand dips a spoon into a bowl of barley soup. The viewer doesn’t see the boy’s face, only the back of his head and a partial profile.

To the mother’s left and right are smaller depictions of a yak and a horse, animals that are central to the culture and economy of the Himalayas. What look like hawks perch on rocky aeries. The skies are dark blue, close to indigo, and the mountains are gray and pink.

A radiant, blossoming pink lotus at the top of the canvas, Norbu said, is “a message that the new world will become peaceful.”

Norbu, who started the painting some four months ago in his Kathmandu studio, began with the image of the woman, decked in traditional garb, in the center of the canvas.

“I start from mother and let it grow,” he said, gesturing outward with his hands to show how the painting expanded.

Norbu grew up in Dolpo, a more remote, semi-arid region of Nepal on the Tibetan border, which has an elevation of around 15,000 feet.

His father was also an artist as well as a lama, or teacher, who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps as a lama and painter of traditional scenes.

But Norbu had his own ideas about what he wanted to paint beyond classic thangka, he said, and ventured into landscapes, historical and mythic scenes, and scenes from his own memories of childhood.

Born in 1970, Norbu left home to go to Katmandu in 1991, but he goes back to Dolpo three to four months each year, he said.

His work was seen in the 1998 film Himalaya, which is the only Nepalese film to have earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

He has illustrated a number of children’s books, including Clear Sky, Red Earth: A Himalayan Story, which was written by Sienna Craig and tells the story of a young girl in Dolpo who, centuries ago, grew up to become a renowned painter.

Norbu was asked about the baby, whose features, unlike those of his mother, are still unfinished, a blank slate. He said, with a bit of a wink, that he thought that he would leave the child as is.

“He needs to grow,” he said.

“Tibetan and Himalayan Lifeworlds” continues through March 31 in Dartmouth College’s Baker-Berry Library.

Openings and Receptions

The Tunbridge Public Library will host an opening reception Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. for its exhibit “Two Perspectives of Rural Vermont,” a show of multi-media collages by South Strafford artist Jeanne McMahan, and pen and ink drawings by Peter Neri, of Sharon. The show runs through March 26.


Aging Resource Center, Lebanon. The Senior Art program exhibition is on view through mid-March. Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Arabella, Windsor. The gallery exhibits works by local artists and artisans in a variety of media, including jewelry, oils, acrylics, photography, watercolors, pastels and textiles.

AVA Gallery and Art Center, Lebanon. A show of collages by Margaret Lampe Kannenstine, of Woodstock, mosaics by Lebanon artist Carrie Fradkin, dye transfer prints by photographer James Browning, and wooden sculpture by Burlington artist Clark Derbes, is on view through Feb. 3.

Fradkin will give a gallery talk Saturday at 3 p.m.; and Derbes will give a gallery talk on Friday, Feb. 3, at 5:30 p.m.

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. “Figuration,” which features the works of Lucy Mink Covello, Mark Goodwin and Fulvio Testa, runs through Feb. 25.

Converse Free Library, Lyme. “Gillian Tyler: A Golden Anniversary Retrospective” is now on view in the Betty Grant Gallery through March 31.

Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon. The winter exhibition includes stained glass by Kathleen Curwen; wildlife paintings by Bradley Jackson; watercolors by Kathleen Fiske; a selection of work from the Vermont Watercolor Society; photographs by Seth Goodwin; pen and ink drawings by David Cooper; and photographs by Ruth Connor, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Geisel School of Medicine, who spent time in Western Kenya documenting the work done by I-Kodi, a grassroots non-governmental organization dedicated to improving education and healthcare in the region. The shows run through March.

Hood Downtown, Hanover. “Let the Garden Eram Flourish,” a show of painting, video and drawings by Iranian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Bahar Behbahani, continues through March 12.

Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover. The Jaffe-Friede Gallery at the Hopkins Center shows an installation by artist-in-residence Zilvinas Kempinas. The exhibit runs through March 5.

Howe Library, Hanover. The annual Hanover High School Student Art Show, featuring drawings, photography, printmaking, collage, digital art, sculpture and jewelry, continues through Wednesday.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. An exhibition of work by Enfield painter Penny Koburger continues through January.

Long River Gallery and Gifts, Lyme. The works of Hanover fiber artist Shari Boraz and silversmith and jeweler Case Hathaway-Zepeda continue through March. There will be a reception on Thursday, Feb. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Long River will continue to have an adjunct gallery on South Main Street in White River Junction, where there will be an opening today from 4 to 6 p.m. for “As If — Weavings From Oz,” by Henniker, N.H., artist Doug Masury.

Osher at Dartmouth, Hanover. The photographs of Mary Gerakaris are exhibited in “Reality to Abstraction — A Photographic Journey of Perception” through Feb. 24 at the Osher office at 7 Lebanon St., in Hanover.

Royalton Memorial Library, South Royalton. A show of work by 20th-century commercial artist Louis Chap is up through Feb. 18.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. The gallery shows handmade wooden objects by Ria Blaas and jewelry by Stacy Hopkins.

SculptureFest, Woodstock. The annual celebration of three-dimensional art generally ends when foliage season does, but 80 percent of the show is still on view. “Grounding,” a show of site-specific work curated by sculptors Jay Mead and Edythe Wright, is on view at the King Farm. For more information, go to

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. The Holiday Print Show runs through Tuesday.

Norman Williams Public Library, Woodstock. “In Living Color,” a show of work by painter Patsy Highberg, runs through Feb. 13.

Zollikofer Gallery, Hotel Coolidge, White River Junction. A show of paintings by West Lebanon resident Mary Jane Morse has been extended through Feb. 18.

Nicola Smith can be reached at

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