Luminous: Miya Ando’s Prayer Flags

Night view of the blue painting in Miya Ando's Prayer Flag series. The other four paintings in the series are green, red, white, and yellow.

By Andrea Miller

Miya Ando, a New York-based artist who is the descendant of a samurai sword maker, has donated a series of unique aluminum plate paintings to the Tibetan Nuns Project. The paintings — five in total — are inspired by the colors of Tibetan prayer flags. The backs are coated with phosphorescence, which absorbs light throughout the day and at night emits a soft halo around the paintings. “Prayer flags emanate blessings into the air,” says Ando, “and I wanted to create artworks which similarly emanated light into darkness.”

Now through August 23, you can check out (and bid on) Ando’s Prayer Flag series via Paddle8.com. 100% of the sales from this special benefit auction will be donated directly to the Tibetan Nuns Project, which provides education and humanitarian aid to refugee nuns from Tibet and Himalayan regions of India.

In the current issue of the Shambhala Sun, I profile Miya Ando, along with two other Buddhist-inspired visual artists: Chrysanne Stathacos, who’s best known for making fragrant mandalas out of roses, and Sanford Biggers, who has created singing bowls out of hip-hop jewelry. This is an excerpt from that article:

“Miya Ando is wearing head-to-toe black, except for the pearly Buddhist prayer beads around her wrist. But greeting me at the door of her Brooklyn studio, what she wants to show me is pure, vibrant color: the robes she inherited from her grandfather.

“Ando’s grandfather was the head priest of a small Buddhist temple in Okayama, Japan, where she spent half her childhood. She remembers clearly the sound of chanting through the paper-thin walls and seeing her grandfather dressed in these robes, which she is now carefully unwrapping. They’re made of almost luminescent purple and orange damask and still smell faintly of temple incense.

“Purple is an unusual color for Nichiren Buddhist robes, Ando tells me, because it’s reserved for those who have been priests for fifty years or more. It is this purple and the contrasting orange that’s got her thinking about the impact of color and how she can incorporate it into her art.”