Maria Denjongpa grew up in Massachusetts. She studied anthropology at Brown and spent much of her adult life teaching English in Sikkim (in the Eastern Himalayas). She began creating puppets and masks and spirit creatures out of paper mache in high school and has been making them
I am interested in spirits—meaning the fears, joys, vulnerabilities and pride that reside in the bones of animals and people. I am curious what these spirits look like: their essential gestures and postures, their colors, patterns and shapes.
My art is non-cerebral. It comes from turning off the thinking part of the brain, so that what flutters up in the branches or lurks in dark corners finds its physical form.
There is something magical about the hard hollowness of paper mache: the fact that something like old newspapers—flat and full of words—can be transformed into something hard, three-dimensional and full of feeling.
Sometimes the figures paint themselves. Other times I have to paint them many times before the colors and patterns come right. Once that happens, once they find their simple essence, they seem to spring to life. That’s when I know that they are done.
Some ponder. Others fly. Still others wait for people to pass before they begin to speak.