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Sunday, February 9 • 10:30am - 12:30pm
the Creation of the Vajrayogini LIMITED

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Limited Capacity seats available

See the Original clay piece and hear Master Sculptor John Soderberg story your way through the creation of this, his most intricate and detailed piece to date....  The Vajrayogini, rich in symbolism and spiritual meaning, viewed from the artist's eyes and described in rich detail...  Not to be missed, at Aumbase in the Heart Center Village, at Soderberg Bronze.  To see more of John's work, click here.


Bronze Sculpture, 2009, by John M. Soderberg, Ph.D.
Designed by John M. Soderberg and Gil Gillenwater
Commissioned by Gil Gillenwater

Born in Southern California, John M. Soderberg spent the first 18 years of his life in Central and Southeast Asia, and circled the world eight times before graduating high-school in Bangkok, Thailand. Gil Gillenwater has travelled much of his life, and among many other countries, extensively studied and explored in Tibet. Both, in their own way, have been fascinated by, and explored, the human experience. John became a member of Gil’s Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation in its early days, and both have worked together since 1988 on numerous humanitarian projects and charitable efforts. After Gil’s latest immersion in Tibetan culture and sacred landscape, he told John of his experiences and realizations, and invited him to sculpt the Tibetan goddess Vajrayogini.

John had been moved for some time to work in that direction, and Gil formally commissioned him to do the sculpture. They worked together for three years designing this piece, and all of the elements involved, as John sculpted her. In the truest sense of the word, the bronze Vajrayogini evolved. This evolution began in the early lives of John and Gil, in their explorations, interests and growth, and continued through their design partnership. Following, in their own words, is an introduction to this evolution of the bronze Tibetan goddess Vajrayogini.

John M. Soderberg: "I was six or seven years old when the Dalai Lama came to Kashmir. He came to see the movie about the holy-man Moses, with Charlton Heston. I was living at that time with my family on a carved wooden houseboat on Lake Dal. We also went to the movie, and I still vividly remember the Dalai Lama’s face as he smiled at me, in the gardens outside the theater.

In the 1940s, my father had been commissioned by the king of Afghanistan to build the first engineering school in the country. The first five years of my life were spent there, where I sculpted in mud and clay, and began painting in oils. We then moved to India for six years, living mostly in New Delhi, but spending much of the time travelling and exploring from Sri Lanka to Madras, Srinigar, Nepal and Assam. International attention was on India then, and I met President Eisenhower, Prime Minister Nikita Krushchev, Prince Phillip, others, and had tea in the palace with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru when I was seven years old.

The art of India marked me deeply. From the carvings on the ancient forgotten temples my brothers and I found and explored in the jungles and forests, to the intricate sculpture in the bazaars, and the storytelling paintings of the Ramayana, I discovered my passion. Every Sunday, in New Delhi, Tibetan gypsies would show up in front of our home and spread out a blanket on the driveway. From bulging bags, they would pull out pots, jewelry, ceremonial knives, and sculptures in jade, wood, and silver. They laid everything out in rows on the blanket. I would spend hours holding and studying the art.

When I was eight years old, my family and I rode on horseback from Northern India up to the foothills of the Himalayas, and the glaciers. We rode for several weeks, sleeping in small dark bungalows in mountain meadows. We caught our horses after breakfast around a fire in the morning, and rode on. The beauty was immense. Two months later, I stood alone inside the Taj Mahal, next to her tomb, on a full moon at midnight, looking through the filigreed marble walls at the moonlight reflecting from the lily ponds.

When I was 11, we moved to Thailand. At 12, I began studying teakwood carving with the leading master in the country, a Buddhist monk. Every weekend, we would set up in old-town Bangkok near the 90 feet long reclining Buddha, and carve all day on Buddhist angels, dragons, etc. The master would speak as we worked of his childhood, of Buddhism, and of art. My high school was the International School of Bangkok. We had over 90 nationalities represented. For a time, my girlfriend was a Buddhist Cambodian.

I studied various martial arts from age 13 or so, and spent much time in various dojos around Bangkok. I studied with Koreans, Japanese, Americans, and Thais, and made my Black belt by age 17. It was an important time in my development, as an artist and as a student of humanity. From as early as I can remember, I have been fascinated by people, and have been drawn to philosophy and psychology. I have been most led to those essential human elements that serve to unify people over the superficial barriers which too often separate them. The evolution of my art has been to document and explore the essence of humanity, and this led me to service-work in the early 1970s.

After high school, I flew to America in the late 60s to attend university in Washington State. Due to culture shock and the unrest of the late 60s , I dropped out, painted for a year on the street in Berkeley in the middle of the People’s Park riots, then enlisted in the Marine Corps. I taught martial arts in the military, and became involved with service-work, mainly stress and drug-abuse counseling. After my Honorable Discharge in 1973 I worked as a tool and die maker-machinist, painted and made jewelry at night, and expanded my volunteerism. I became most involved with charitable groups, which focused on women and children in need.

In 1976 I committed my art-life to bronze sculpture, and have worked exclusively in that medium since. I have continued to expand my service-work involvement, and have used my sculpture to benefit numerous organizations including Amnesty International, Rancho Feliz, Free the Slaves organization, one of the Paul Newman Hole in the Wall Gang camps for seriously ill children, domestic abuse shelters, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Advancement of Women for Northern Arizona University, community service clubs, and other causes. In 1998 I received my Ph.D. in Humane Letters from Northern Arizona University, and a year later was Knighted by a Swedish Count for service-work, and for art achievement.

I have sculpted numerous historically influential figures including Christ, Moses, Merlin, Norman Vincent Peale, Billy Graham, Steven Biko, Poseidon, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, St. Catherine of Siena, Sacajawea, Gil Gillenwater, various corporate founders, and others. I have sculpted several Asian-theme pieces over the years, but for the last decade have felt a strong pull to sculpturally explore more deeply the influences of my childhood. I have begun this process with the bronze "Vajrayogini." It feels very good to come home."

Gil Gillenwater: "I am a life-long resident of Scottsdale, Arizona. I am a yoga and meditation practitioner, an outdoorsman, a traveler and a black belt in Kenpo karate. In addition to this, or should I say because of this, I am also a philanthropist.

My interest in Buddhism and Eastern thought came directly through my fascination with the human mind. As an existentialist, I have always been intrigued with consciousness and our unique ability to create realities through the study and power of our minds.

My quest led me from positive thinking, to hypnotism, to Hinduism and eventually to Buddhist meditation master Chögyam Trungpa and his "Shambhala, the Sacred Path of the Warrior". (Little did I know how prophetic the words "Shambhala" and "Warrior" would be in my life.) Discovering "service to others" as an ego-diminishing, fast-track to awareness, in 1987 I founded the Rancho Feliz Charitable Foundation, Inc. (www.ranchofeliz.com). I have since devoted a major portion of my life to service. This is my chosen path to awareness. In 1993 I took my Bodhisattva vows from the Dalai Lama. In 2006 I founded the Guardian Warrior Foundation, Inc., a self-funded charity established to support Rancho Feliz and to promote its concepts on a global basis.

In 1999, I was a recipient of the Hon Kachina Award, Arizona’s highest honor for volunteerism. In 2000, I was one of five members throughout the United States chosen to receive the National Association of Realtors, "Good Neighbor Award", likewise honoring volunteerism.

My interest in Buddhism led me to Tibet in 1994. Obtaining some of the first permits to enter the forbidden Pemako region, my brother and I smuggled a 12-foot paddle raft into southeastern Tibet. Here, with two companions, we made a "first descent" attempt down the world’s highest, remotest and wildest river, the Yarlung TsangPo. This was my first of three ventures into the revered Beyul Pemako region – the "Hidden Land of the Blossoming Lotus", the Shambhala of Tibet. It was here that I was introduced to the female Buddhist meditational deity -- Vajrayogini.

Vajrayogini is represented geographicall…

avatar for John Soderberg, PhD. Sculptor

John Soderberg, PhD. Sculptor

Sculptor, John Soderberg Studio
"To me, art is not a luxury, but is a basic human necessity. Art can, and should, remind us of our humanity, and that of others, and enhance the quality of our lives. From the earliest artists, Stone Age storytellers around a fire in a cave, to the painters and sculptors and architects of today, art has pervaded and shaped our societies. To me, an artist is not primarily a creator, but is rather a conduit—absorbing, translating, and... Read More →

Sunday February 9, 2014 10:30am - 12:30pm
AumBase 1370 West Highway 89A, Sedona, Arizona 86336

Attendees (2)