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    Phlegmish Art: Can Tibetan Medical Paintings Cure Your Cold?

    In conjunction with its upcoming survey of Tibetan medical artworks, the Rubin Museum will offer diet tips, urinalysis, and other suggestions for healthy living

    Fierce Yuthog Protector, Red Wolf-Headed Protectress underneath a Blue Medicine Buddha, Central Tibet, 19th century, pigments on cloth. COURTESY RUBIN MUSEUM OF ART.

    Fierce Yuthog Protector, Red Wolf-Headed Protectress underneath a Blue Medicine Buddha, Central Tibet, 19th century, pigments on cloth.

    COURTESY RUBIN MUSEUM OF ART.

    “What does your tongue look like?” reads a sample questionnaire issued by the Rubin Museum of Art, the New York institution that showcases art from the Himalayas and their surrounding regions.

    “What is your mental disposition?” the questions continue. “How would you characterize your bowel movements?”

    The survey isn’t part of an overly invasive application for museum membership, but rather, it is a tool that will help visitors engage with works in the Rubin’s upcoming exhibition. Titled “Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine,” the show will feature a selection of nearly 150 Tibetan medical sculptures, paintings, manuscripts, drawings, and devices. Through a series of participatory activities, tours, and events, “Bodies in Balance” will demonstrate the ways in which these ancient healthy-living practices can be applied to visitors’ everyday lives. The show, which is curated by Elena Pakhoutova and Theresia Hofer, opens March 15.

    The foundations of Tibetan medical practices are laid out in a poetic treatise called the Four Tantras, which dates back to the 12th century. The text, which is still used by Tibetan doctors today, describes a method of living and healing that is not only based on medicine, but also on diet and personal actions. “It’s a philosophy of behavior,” says Tim McHenry, Director of Public Programs & Performance at the Rubin. “You can treat something with antibiotics, but how did you get there in the first place?”