Through a series of twists and turns, Hartnett landed in Bhutan, a small country tucked between China and India. Harnett quickly fell in love with the country, and two years later he's created Choki, a non-profit that showcases art and cultures from developing countries. Choki will open its gallery space inside Carmen Wiedenhoeft on Saturday, November 1 with a permanent exhibit of Bhutanese artwork, including scarves, paintings, drawings, mandalas and photography.
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Bhutan is one of the last cultures that is untouched by globalization, Hartnett says, and he and Choki co-founder Andrea Pinto want to share that beauty with viewers in this city. They hope the exhibit can benefit both the Bhutanese and the people of Denver.
The featured artwork comes from a school in Bhutan that trains students in traditional arts and crafts. The school also serves as an orphanage that offers free tuition, food and lodging. In Bhutan, art is used as a means for trade, Hartnett explains. For example, tapestries and scarves can be exchanged for goods and wood carving is an essential skill of Bhutanese architecture.Some of the most impressive pieces in the collection are the mandalas, which are symbols that represent the universe in Hinduism and Buddhism. They are extremely detailed and contain drawings of figures like temples, animals, gods and goddesses. Students spend years training to do these large canvases, using intricate grids for perfect symmetry and paint made from natural pigment.
The works require dedication and time, Hartnett says, and even though the school has electricity, its unreliability forces students to work mostly during the daytime. "The patience to do that is incredible," he adds. "One piece can take four months of daylight just sitting there for ten hours a day. It's pure perfection. It's one of the most captivating thing I've ever seen."
"Because it's not just about making art," Pinto adds. "It's about devotion. There's so much love in each piece."Keep reading for more on Choki.