Mary Heebner
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Bodhisattvas at Ayutthaya

North of the present day capital city of Bangkok, at the confluence of three rivers, lay Ayutthaya. It grew to become a powerful, wealthy kingdom, that once encompassed the entire Central Plains area, the Chao Praya basin in Southeast Asia. Ayutthaya’s line of 33 rulers, considered heir to the artistic and religious traditions of Sukothai, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, had overtaken Burmese, Khmer and Muslim empires from the 14-18th centuries.Several hundred stone and brick temples -elegantly elongated and gilded structures – pierced the sky and gleamed in the sunlight.
In 1767, after a two-year siege, the Burmese army massed a final assault and took the city, burning it to the ground, killing or enslaving its inhabitants, and mutilating its sacred statuary.

The sculptures are disturbing. This place riddled my sense of justice, of right and wrong — the surges of violence inflicted on others, fed by visceral emotions that propel us to endlessly repeat age old patterns of revenge. However, after sitting forseveral hours sketching and photographing their fragmented forms,on a cloud-whitened day, I felt an enormous sense of peace.

I imagined heads once lopped off slender sculpted necks scattered, rolling across time from the dust heaps of battle — a rainbow of currencies palmed for the booty — to tumble in due course onto polished pedestals, perhaps resting in a museum or private home. There might be a brief inscription or a story that links those displaced and sublime objects of art to that magnificent courtyard, and to the lives and histories it has harbored.


Installation of The Bodhisattvas at Ayutthaya at the University of California Santa Barbara, College of Creative Studies.




the installation
The photographs