Asheville Art Talk: Muralist Amanda Giacomini brings ‘10,000 Buddhas’ to Asheville

INSPIRATION IN THE DARK:  Amanda Giacomini’s first Buddha was created in 2012, but the idea originated in 2006, during a visit to the Ajanta Caves in Western India.
INSPIRATION IN THE DARK: Amanda Giacomini’s first Buddha was created in 2012, but the idea originated in 2006, during a visit to the Ajanta Caves in Western India. Photo by Megan Reeves

Since 2012, muralist Amanda Giacomini has been traveling the world with a single image in mind: a meditating Buddha. From her home state of California to Miami, Fla, and from Panama to Germany, Giacomini has slowly been spreading this image across the globe, one mural at a time. The goal was 10,000 — a number the artist recently achieved. But the mission is far from over. “I never thought I’d get there and stop,” she says. “[Ten thousand] was just a way to anchor myself in the practice.”

On Wednesday, July 26, Giacomini will bring her project 10,000 Buddhas to Asheville. For two days, the artist will add to her ever-increasing count, as she lines the Walnut Street side of the Social Lounge with the image. Giacomini and her husband, MC Yogi, will also be teaching yoga at the Asheville Yoga Festival, which runs Thursday, July 27 through Sunday, July 30.

Giacomini’s background is in oil painting. Her transition to spray-painted murals took some getting used to, but, ultimately, she has found the form to be rewarding. Unlike oil paintings, which can take days or sometimes weeks to complete, her murals offer a quick turnaround. “It’s instant gratification,” she says. “You’re suddenly covering a 20-by-20 square foot area in a day.”

The overall process, however, has been anything but instantaneous. Giacomini’s first Buddha was created in 2012, but the idea originated in 2006, during a visit to the Ajanta Caves in Western India. Giacomini notes these caverns were once used by practicing Buddhists. “During the regular part of the year, the dry season, the monks were supposed to travel every three days,” she explains. “But during the rainy season, they would gather in these caves and wait out the three months when the roads were untraversable.”

While exploring the ancient refuge, Giacomini came across a mural of 1,000 Buddhas meditating side by side. “That’s what inspired the project,” she says. Why it took an additional six years for it to launch is among the mysteries of the creative process. “I can’t really say why it sort of bubbled back to the surface,” says Giacomini. “Sometimes these things just lie dormant, like deep seeds in the earth and then one day they pop through the surface.”

For local muralist Ian Wilkinson, out-of-towners like Giacomini are a welcome addition to Asheville’s art scene. “It raises the bar,” he says, adding that projects like 10,000 Buddhas help shed a positive light on a sometimes-misunderstood art form. But, above all, says Wilkinson, such events help put Asheville on the map as a mural town and mural destination. This final point, he notes, is “not just a good thing, it’s a great thing.”

For Giacomini, the endeavor did not begin with an international audience in mind, but as a chance for individual growth. “For me [it] really started as a personal project,” she says. “As I painted, I often studied and learned and listened to lectures and audiobooks about Buddhism and Buddhist philosophy. It’s been a way for me to deepen my own spiritual practice.”

The decision to go public, however, has been rewarding. “It seems [from] peoples’ reaction to the work [that it] has made them happy and peaceful,” she says.

Even with 10,000 Buddhas already under her belt, Giacomini says there is plenty of work ahead. While she hasn’t settled on a new number, she has an open invitation to bring her project to Palestine and Israel. “In some ways, I feel like the project is just now really taking root,” she says. “It’s just starting to spread. And I’m just starting to get good at it.”

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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