What are American Tanka?
American Tanka are an original American art form developed by Dan Barker over the past 30 years and named in recognition of the traditional Tibetan thangha form which inspired him. Motifs such as peony flowers, cloud and wave forms, Om, and the tree of life are used, as well as his own form of dorji, and most include lines of mystic poetry often ‘veiled’ by gold leaf. The primary materials used are gold leaf, other metallic foils, gold and silver thread, pearls, and ribbon on fabric or paper.
In Dan's words,
American Tanka ~ Flowerbanners are made from easily available fabric and ribbon, metallic thread, gold leaf, pearls, semi-precious stones, handmade paper, and carpenter’s glue, following ancient precepts I discover as I go along. The intention, to illuminate the mystic cogency, follows the deep American mystical evolutionaries - Thoreau, Emerson, Melville, Whitman, Masters, Everson, Jeffers, and the many others driven to impart their significant, urging and generous message. Frequently used design components are Tantric Oms: to signify the originating breath of creation; metallic thread: to signify the thread that connects all souls (Upavita); Pali Oms for codified value systems; The Great Flower of Being, the peony; the new dorji (Infinite Law, Infinite Life - Masters) with the sword of discernment transformed into flame wisdom; infinite knot stems; samsara waves: i.e. - suffering; borders composed of Trees of Life; The Great Flower of Being surrounded by lotus samsara wave dorjis, illustrating splendid words of profound generosity. The effort is “soul gift”.