From The Lotus Effect, Rubin Museum of Art, 2020 (all images courtesy the Rubin Museum of Art; photo by David De Armas)

In Tibetan Buddhism, lotus flowers have long been symbolic of rising above, be it the muddy waters these blooms spring from, or more corporeal or philosophical challenges. Associated with purity, transformation, and a sense of awakening, these flowers are thought of as testaments to the ability of beauty to rise above the muck. 

Needless to say, this year has been filled with more muck (and other dark descriptors) than others. This prompted the Rubin Museum to launch The Lotus Effect, a “participatory installation for times of transformation” during the months when the museum was closed to the public. Now in its final weeks, the project invites audiences to fold their own origami lotuses at home by following the helpful prompting of Brooklyn-based origami artist Uttam Grandhi, accessible via the video below. (Step-by-step instructions are also available here.) 

YouTube video

A calming activity that offers a much-needed break from daily tasks, the project invites participants to stop and recenter. As the museum asks, “Who or what are the ‘lotuses’ in your life that remind you of the bloom beyond murky waters?”

Participants are encouraged to share their responses on social media by using the #TheLotusEffect and tagging @RubinMuseum. Paper blooms may also be mailed to the museum to be included in the lobby installation. In the past few months, the museum has received over 500 origami lotuses, including a single shipment of over 100 works from Hebrew Home, a nursing home in the Bronx that organized a collective fold-a-thon for residents and staff over Thanksgiving.

Lotus submissions from Hebrew Home, Bronx, NY

As many of us spend the holidays apart from friends and family, getting together virtually for some tactile, meditative activity might just be the simplest, safest way to set yourself on the path towards a more transformative 2021.

When: Spiral Lobby display continues through January 10, 2021
Where: Online; submissions may be mailed to the Lotus Effect (Rubin Museum of Art, 140 West 17th Street, New York, NY 10011)

More info at the Rubin Museum of Art

Dessane Lopez Cassell is a New York based editor, writer, and film curator, as well as the former reviews editor at Hyperallergic. You can follow her work here.