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MOCRA exhibit shows snapshots of Bhutani life

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Travel photography: An attendee views photos taken by Regina DeLouise at the opening reception, on Jan. 24, for her exhibit at MOCRA - “Vast Bhutan: Images from the Phenomenal World.” This piece is titled “Something something.” Elizabeth Scofidio / Staff Photographer

Travel photography: An attendee views photos taken by Regina DeLouise at the opening reception, on Jan. 24, for her exhibit at MOCRA - “Vast Bhutan: Images from the Phenomenal World.” This piece is titled “Something something.” Elizabeth Scofidio / Staff Photographer

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Travel photography: An attendee views photos taken by Regina DeLouise at the opening reception, on Jan. 24, for her exhibit at MOCRA - “Vast Bhutan: Images from the Phenomenal World.” This piece is titled “Something something.” Elizabeth Scofidio / Staff Photographer

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Travel photography: An attendee views photos taken by Regina DeLouise at the opening reception, on Jan. 24, for her exhibit at MOCRA - “Vast Bhutan: Images from the Phenomenal World.” This piece is titled “Something something.” Elizabeth Scofidio / Staff Photographer

Travel photography: An attendee views photos taken by Regina DeLouise at the opening reception, on Jan. 24, for her exhibit at MOCRA – “Vast Bhutan: Images from the Phenomenal World.” This piece is titled “Something something.” Elizabeth Scofidio / Staff Photographer

Saturday, Jan. 24, marked the opening reception for a new show at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA). Entitled “Vast Bhutan: Images from the Phenomenal World”, the exhibit features the stunning photography of Regina DeLuise, captured during her seven-week stay in Bhutan, a small country located in southern Asia. DeLuise’s art will be displayed at MOCRA through May 10.

Regina DeLuise was born in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated from State University of New York at Purchase with a bachelor of fine arts, and obtained a master of art from Rosary College, Graduate School of Fine Arts in Florence, Italy. DeLuise was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993. She serves as the current chair of photography at Maryland Institute College of Art, and her work is included in many notable collections. These include the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Houston Museum of Fine Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. DeLuise has traveled and photographed across the world, including Italy, India, Nepal and, most recently, Bhutan.

DeLuise traveled to Bhutan as a volunteer for an organization called Voluntary Artists’ Studio, Thimphu (VAST). VAST is a group of artists and educators working towards making art accessible to Bhutanese youth. The program helps young people in Bhutan develop both artistic and vocational skills, while becoming more involved in their communities.

“It really is about community-building and art, and giving students the confidence to move out of their school relationship to art,” said DeLuise of the program.

The photos themselves give the viewer a glimpse into the culture and spirit of the country. Bhutan’s population is predominantly Buddhist, and the faith is woven throughout everyday life in the small nation. DeLuise’s photography manages to capture this serene spirituality through simple and breath-taking images.

Many of DeLuise’s photos are deceptively simple, featuring, for example, an ironing board tarnished with burn marks, or a flower displayed in a plastic water bottle. This artistic portrayal of the seemingly mundane encourages the viewer to consider the beauty inherent in even commonplace objects.

“I hope that the way that I look at ordinary things with the camera starts to transform them, to elevate them slightly,” she said.

Her ability to bring out the beauty in the mundane can be attributed, in part, to her use of black and white photography.

“I feel black and white immediately transforms our experience of reality to something else, something new,” said DeLuise. “I really am responding to light more than anything else. So I love the idea of not being distracted so much by color, and of simplifying things, putting things into their most distilled form.”

When asked what she learned from her stay in Bhutan, DeLuise responded, “What I experienced was a tremendous generosity of the people, and a real openness. VAST is so interested in helping the community through art, and in making people’s experiences richer based on art and community. This whole idea of community engagement was something I was really impressed with.”

DeLuise expressed the hope that her exhibit will encourage viewers to learn more about Bhutan, its culture and its citizens.

“I think they could be a really good example to us,” she said. “We tend to get kind of isolated into our own little worlds, but I think that, in Bhutan, they are really thinking about each other.”

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MOCRA exhibit shows snapshots of Bhutani life