Body and Soul: Pahole Sookkasikon’s Art and Activism
As of last Saturday night, I’m the proud owner of a t-shirt emblazoned with artwork by artist/activist Pahole Sookkasikon. Pahole’s solo show, Only For Pretend, opened at My Trick Pony in San Francisco last weekend, a smart little gallery space that also is a purveyor of custom t-shirts based on designs by the artists featured at the shop.
Pahole’s show is made up of several of his beautiful, impressionistic pen-and-ink drawings on paper. Delicate and dreamlike, the images flow gracefully across the page, with faces and shapes emerging amidst the swirling lines.
In addition to exhibiting the original artwork, My Trick Pony has also made up graphics of Pahole’s drawings for transfer onto nice, non-sweatshop t-shirts from American Apparel in a variety of colors and styles.
The shop’s adaptations of Pahole’s black-and-white drawings are available in several colors, including many metallic options.
Pahole’s pictures take beautifully to the to the t-shirt medium, with their lacy imagery gaining an added layer of feathery abstraction when rendered in metallic glitter.
Gallery proprietor Matteo is masterful on the hot-press, with a keen eye for the proper placement of the picture on each individual shirt.
At the show’s reception he whipped through the creation of several dozen shirts in the space of a couple hours, expertly applying Pahole’s ethereal drawings onto each garment.
Pahole’s exhibit continues through June. Stop by for your own custom t-shirt; visit My Trick Pony’s website for more information.
Pahole has also been tirelessly advocating for the Wat Mongkolratanaram Thai Buddhist Temple in Berkeley in its struggle for religious and cultural self-determination. For more than a year the Temple has been in conflict with some of its immediate neighbors who object to the smell, congestion, and lack of parking during the Wat’s Sunday food sharing, which has been taking place since 1994.
Part of the Buddhist tradition of merit-making, the food sharing raises operating funds for the Temple and supports the monks in residence. The Temple has made numerous concessions to the neighbors’ demands, including reducing by half the hours of the food offerings, providing alternate parking spaces for visitors, and increasing trash pickup on Sundays.
Neighbors claim that the Temple is running an unlicensed restaurant on its grounds, but the Temple maintains that the food offerings are an important part of its religious traditions. As outlined in a recent Wall Street Journal article:
Abbot Tahn Manas, who has lived at the temple for 22 years, says the event is critical to the Buddhist religious practice of “earning merit.” Monks are forbidden by their religion from earning money or accumulating earthly goods on their own. Providing for monks and temples is the religious duty of Buddhists of the Theravada school; it helps them build goodwill for later in life or for the next life. In Thailand, they earn merit by giving money to monks in the street. Berkeley Buddhists earn merit by volunteering at brunch, thereby serving the temple.
“Our Sunday activity is pretty much like Christians going to church every Sunday,” says Abbot Manas. “Without it, it would be very difficult for us to continue merit making.”
There’s also more than a bit of cultural insensitivity in the neighbors’ complaints, including the accusation that the glorious scent of Thai food is intrusive and offensive. As Veena Dubal notes in Asian Week,
“It smells like coconut milk!” Dubal said. “When I heard those remarks, I felt a tinge of pain. That kind of … xenophobic rhetoric has no space in this diverse community.”
About 20 neighbors continue to pursue their actions against the Temple; in contrast, more than 2000 people have signed a petition in support of the Temple and its facebook group has more than 1400 members.
The Temple hopes to build a new sanctuary on its site, for which it recently has received approval from the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB). However, the Temple faces an appeals hearing before the Berkeley City Council meeting in July 2009, during which the Council can approve or deny the ZAB ruling. The exact time and date for the hearing will be posted on the Save The Thai Temple website as soon as that information is known.