Gwen Darling is proud to present "Puzzles and Prayers- Reinventing the Prayer Wheel" at Burning Man 2019! Thank you Burning Man for awarding us an Honorarium grant! This is the most exciting, heartfelt project I have been blessed to create.


   "Puzzles and Prayers"

     @Burning Man 2019

Prayer wheels have been used in Tibetan culture for almost 2,000 years as a visual aid to guide prayers for compassion and enlightenment. It is said that the spinning wheel radiates the prayer written within and is as spiritually potent as if the prayer were spoken aloud.


Typically seen as individual wheels aligned in long rows, the "Puzzles and Prayers" wheel components are arranged in a grid. Each ceramic wheel is a puzzle piece. When spun into alignment with the rest, the wheels compose a beautiful mural.  It gives the participant a unique opportunity to interact with this spiritual tradition as well as discovering the hidden image of the contemporary mural. Each wheel also has an opening for participants to insert their own wish or prayer. The sculpture acts as a complete environment providing shelter from the sun; a meeting place for all to play, to pray, to experience, to participate.

"Puzzles and Prayers" is a physical manifestation of my years of experimentation as an artist and craftswoman. The ancient techniques of utilitarian ceramics combined with contemporary art imaging offer the vast knowledge and history inherent in its making. I want this art to demarcate the shift in value I think the world needs to heal the divides of classicism: public art, too large to be collected and coveted by a single person; a meeting place for all to play, to pray, to experience, to participate. The Tibetan culture created prayer wheels so its illiterate population could benefit from the prayer for compassion without knowing the exact words in the mantra. The world needs compassion and understanding and I am placing all my intentions for that realization into the clay as I sculpt. As the wheels spin I pray that compassion will radiate to the community. My hope is that we can cultivate a new paradigm that values experience over objectivity.


I have been perfecting my own ceramic glazing technique over many years. The technique uses flowers instead of brushes to apply design to the clay's surface. Each flower petal becomes part of a larger image, as does each wheel, echoing the theme that each prayer will radiate to the community. The theme of the mural incorporates metamorphosis.

Ceramics is a controversial medium. Arguments of whether it is art or craft have taken place for ages. Its innate utilitarian functions have placed it as a lesser art form, devaluing it in the world of fine art. Where the art world has seen weakness, I see value. The durability of clay and its ability to be touched and handled makes it ideal for the longevity of interaction. "Puzzles and Prayers" offers the beauty of a fine art painting, the mass of sculpture, and the possibility of touch.

"Puzzles and Prayers" traveled first to Burning Man 2019. I hope to place it in other public areas, temples, ashrams, hospitals, and cities. Contact me with questions and send prayers to- Gwen Darling, the Hairy Potter

Thanks for visiting!

Gwen Darling
Tel: 831-331-7492
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