Through symbols of transformation, Sedona artist Sherab (Shey) Khandro reminds us of our own natural beauty and the power of small acts to make a difference. Enjoy our interview with this fascinating painter, sculptor, speaker and writer and learn how, like Ilchi Lee, she found inspiration in the energy of Sedona.

Sherab Khandro

LT: How did you discover Sedona?

SK: I was living in Maryland where I was practicing as a Tibetan Buddhist Nun; I was ordained. My spiritual teacher said “a group of us are going to go to Sedona, with kind of a pilgrimage, as a place to come for prayer, connection, deep practice, visiting some of the sacred sites that have been actually recognized by many of the Native American tribes over the years.” So, we would come and practice: meditate, pray, hike around out in the rocks, and my teacher was leading some teachings and such, and we did that kind of a trip several times. Then back in the late 90’s, she decided that she was going to relocate here and invited several of her students to come. Actually, there were many that came and we were going to build a stupa and establish a center for study and practice. I came with my spiritual community to work on the stupa; I was the arts director for that project.

LT: What year was this?

SK: I came here in 1998 and kind of hit the ground running, getting involved with the arts scene and getting to know who people were. A couple of years later, I met Linda Goldenstein [Goldenstein Gallery, Sedona] and we’ve had a wonderful partnership in the arts ever since. I do paint and I sculpt and I like to speak about my experiences as a nun, and I also like to speak about the power of art and its voice in the world, and I do a little writing on the same subjects. Most of my days are spent either wrapped up in creating art or connecting with people and connecting them with the arts. It’s been 17 years now, and I have just stayed to focus on my own spiritual growth and my growth as an artist.

LT: Your bio mentions that you were formally trained by Tibetan masters in exile in the U.S. We would love to hear that story!

SK: That’s a fascinating part of things. The formal training began in Maryland with the Tibetan masters who found themselves in exile here in the United States. When I first took Ordination, I was encouraged to explore my gifts as an artist. That was the world I was immersed in at the time; I was with the Buddhist community and the Tibetan teachers that had come. Our community was very active in building things; it’s not my temperament to be just sitting in meditation for hours and hours. And my teacher, of course, knew that, and I think most of her students had that inclination. So, we built things; we would be building stupas and monuments, and building altars and such and there’s a lot of imagery included in it.

LT: Please explain the imagery you speak of.

SK: From three-dimensional pieces, sculptures of the Buddha, relief images, as well as the paintings. So, I started as a sculptor involved in our stupa building projects. Each stupa requires some artistic elements, like lotus petals and the spires and the umbrellas and the images of the Buddha himself and often some decorative elements. I did some large reliefs of snow lions that went around the throne of one of the pieces; each lion was about five by five feet and there were eight of them.

Some of the projects were very involved. Right from the down-and-dirty digging trenches for foundations and such to framing up the walls for the molds to the more delicate kinds of sculpting work that was required, it was a really rich opportunity for me as an artist for me to not only explore the side of it where it requires some hand-eye coordination, some kind of sense of aesthetics, also the part that was most striking to me was the mind quality that’s taught among the Buddhist practitioners, particularly in the arts . . . well, in everything.

LT: Yes, the quality of mind involved is fascinating to think about!

SK: But in the arts it’s really about recognizing the story that the work tells. There are certain qualities that the artist is invited to develop . . . well the artist practices with a certain kind of intention, a “purposefulness.” The art is meant to tell a story, it is meant to remind us of certain qualities; it’s meant to hold an energy. Art is meditation, a creative force rising from our own true nature, an expression of the heart, opening the heart and allowing this intention to arise with a kind of purposefulness into the world. And it ultimately becomes a display, an external display that tells the story.

I found that to be so fascinating. I do paint some traditional images of the Buddha, still now, but I also bring that kind of mind quality to all of the pieces that I’m working on, particularly the pointillism.

LT: For our readers who may not be familiar with the term, Pointillism is a technique of painting. Shey works in the neo-impressionist style of Pointillism in which tiny dots of color are applied to create rich and vibrant imagery. See this style of painting on the website, www.SherabKhandro.com.

Sherab Khandro

SK: Pointillism lends itself so beautifully to that practice [of mind quality] because each dot is visualized as an offering, as a jeweled universe that’s being offered requesting blessings to come to the world to end suffering. So it’s not only a meditation on my part, but it lends kind of purposefulness to the small acts that come together to create just about anything that we do, but particularly those paintings.

LT: How has your work changed since being in Sedona?

SK: It wasn’t until I came to Sedona that I had started painting and at that point had continued my study with the Tibetan Masters, and there is a certain kind of geometry, sacred geometry that goes into the pieces: proportions and sacred elements that are included in each of the pieces. It became just a fascinating kind of study. I was struck by the thoughtfulness of it all, that one invites the mind to focus on an intention and imbues the work with those things.

At the risk of sounding “Woo, Woo,” I do believe that there is a real power to some places. There’s almost a . . . it’s the earth, being an energetic body . . . there are certain places where there’s an opening that may be part of its natural beauty. It may be part of the minerals that the area is made with; it may be that this land has been held in high regard by the native cultures for a very, very long time. I feel that the energy shift of my teacher to come here and place a stupa here was a way of holding and accentuating that energy. My landing here as an artist wanting to connect more deeply with my spirituality, with my voice as an artist and the opportunity to bring that forth as purely as possible without distraction – I think Sedona has lent itself beautifully to that, and I feel it’s such a beautiful place to call home. And the art scene is vibrant here!

LT: Are there any final thoughts about Sedona you would like to share?

SK: We’ve been designated as an International City of Peace. We value a lot of the ideals that resonate so perfectly with the commitment I have for my own life and my hopes for the future of our world. I felt so welcome here from the very start with the ability to pursue my dreams of being a voice of healing, a voice of personal empowerment, stimulating conversations of compassion and the small acts that we each can make that can add up to a big difference in our world, and exploring that through symbols of transformation: the Buddhas, the totems from nature, and things of that sort.

LT: Thank you, Shey!

Lynn A. TrombettaBy Lynn A. Trombetta: A freelance web writer on topics of art, music, and wellness, Lynn is also a wildlife artist/photographer, professional flutist, recording artist, and published author.