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THROUGH APRIL 7
One thing the West can’t understand about the East is the latter’s acceptance of life’s transitoriness. Art historian Stephen P. Huyler is attempting to preserve a bit of the ephemeral East for Western sensibilities, traveling across India photographing the devotional designs that women create to invite Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and prosperity, to visit their homes. (Like a celestial Martha Stewart, Lakshmi won’t enter a house that’s not picturesquely decorated.) This selection of crisp, vivid photos taken all over India provides a colorful overview of the practice and its regional variations: women in different areas use rice paste, henna, wheat paste, lime, or clay, and for busy, up-to-date women in urban areas paper patterns with peel-off backing are available. Huyler can never document this elaborate folk art fully, of course. Three hundred and fifty million women and girls (every sixth woman in the world, the exhibit notes) live in India, and in such regions as Tamil Nadu the designs are replenished daily. For those who’d like to see the creation of the real thing, local Indian women will be creating devotional art at the Sackler throughout the exhibit’s run; the next time will be August 20 at noon. At the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. (202) 357-3200. (Mark Jenkins)