Philip Sugden exhibit showcases South Asian inspired art

Shift Oil on Canvas 6 feet by 7 feet
Oil on Canvas
6 feet by 7 feet

Exhibit: Philip Sugden: “Pages from the Manual on Dismantling God”
Date: June 8 to Sept. 21, 2014
Reception: Sunday, Sept. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Location: Goshen College Music Center’s Hershberger Art Gallery
Cost: Free and open to public

Although many artists travel to exotic locations for inspiration, not many meet the Dalai Lama on their journey, let alone live as his guest for six months. 

Philip Sugden, an assistant professor of art at Bluffton University, is among these few. He and his wife, Carole Elchert, a communication professor at the University of Findlay, were guests of the Dalai Lama for six months in 1988 while doing research for a PBS documentary.

This was one of 12 trips Sugden has taken throughout Tibet and the Himalayas. During these journeys, he created drawings on location that inspired his later studio work.

This summer, some of these works are on display in the Hershberger Art Gallery. The exhibit “Pages from the Manual on Dismantling God: Directions Toward the Unfolding Present” opened on June 8, 2014 and runs through Sept. 21. A reception will be held on the final day of the exhibit, Sept. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m.

Sugden’s exhibit features 21 mixed media images based on his travels. Created with ink and gouache, a type of paint, these works were produced on sheets of handmade paper from Kathmandu, Nepal, and villages in the Himalayas.

In his book, “Visions from the Fields of Merit: Drawings of Tibet and the Himalayas,” published by Floating Temple Press in 2000, Sugden wrote that the geography of Tibet and the Himalayas was “conducive to having creative or spiritual experiences.”

That creativity is evident in Sugden’s images, which feature a range of subjects including angels, astronauts and floating houses.

“Each page was an effort to explore and rediscover meaning in the imagery I have created over the years,” Sugden said.

These works incorporate text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, New and Old Testaments, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, physics, music, astronomy and more. Sugden included text from many languages, including Sanskrit, Aramaic, Greek, Vulcan and binary code.

“My journey has been a slow transformation in how I perceive my connection to the universe,” Sugden said. “This installation re-examines that journey of unfolding connection.”

Sugden studied painting in Paris with Arnaud D’Hauterives, an internationally renowned painter. He graduated from the New York School of Visual Arts and the Paris American Academie des Beaux Arts.

He has since exhibited in over 200 museums and galleries internationally, including shows in New York, London, Paris, Melbourne and Kathmandu.

To learn more about Sugden and his work, visit his website at

The Hershberger Art Gallery is located in the Goshen College Music Center and is open during the summer from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m on weekdays. The building is accessible to people using wheelchairs and others with physical limitations.

–  By Kate Yoder