Maura Moynihan first visited Kathmandu in 1973 when her father, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was US Ambassador to India. “I was just 15 when I visited Kathmandu for the first time. It struck me like a thunderbolt.”
It was love at first sight, and her affinity for Kathmandu’s unique artistic and cultural heritage endured.
“There is no place like it in the world,” she says. “Kathmandu is indescribably and blindingly beautiful. Every day I discover a new temple, a secret stupa, another jatra.”
Moynihan’s exhibition Who Loves Kathmandu More Than Me? is on at Kathmandu Art in Lazimpat till 5 May with over 40 paintings,10 of which are already sold. One is a mixed medium series on King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya that infuses ink, collage and watercolor. There are also depictions of Tara.
In 1999 Moynihan held her first exhibition at Sangeeta Thapa’s Siddhartha Art Gallery, and says she is thrilled to be working now with her daughter, Seetashma at Kathmandu Art Gallery.
In the 1970s Maura Moynihan attended the American School in New Delhi, and spent many years in Asia as a journalist, published two best-selling works of fiction, Yoga Hotel and Covergirl (most of which she wrote while in Nepal). She is also a singer and song writer, poet, model, actress, designer, and has exhibited in India, Nepal, Thailand and the US.
At 23, Moynihan appeared on the cover of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, and for five years Moynihan and Warhol worked together at Interview and co-hosted Andy Warhol’s tv.
“Andy encouraged me to develop all my talents and creativity. He was a kind and generous man, the most amazing person one could have as a mentor and a friend,” recalls Moynihan.
Each time she visits Kathmandu, the one thing which Moynihan religiously does is visit Bouddha, Pashupatinath and Swyambhunath. The history, mythology, art, culture and traditions associated to these ancient holy sites never fail to spiritually uplift her, she says.
Kathmandu has indeed always nurtured the artist in her. She explains: “Art in Nepal is not just decorative, it is integral to Nepali culture and way of life. Every painting is a tapasya.”
A student of comparative religion and literature, Moynihan spent many years studying Hindu and Buddhist iconography and was a consultant to the Rubin Museum of Art in New York.
“The new generation of Nepalis, especially women, inspire me greatly. They are sophisticated and educated,” says Moynihan. “Many people used to be pessimistic about the future of Nepal. But look at Nepal now, it has preserved its culture, traditions and beauty. Nepalis are resilient despite the many hardships, the conflict and earthquake.”
Moynihan always carried paint, brushes, pencil and paper in her travels across Asia over the past three decades, painting in water colour because “it dries faster”.
She adds: “But I always return to Nepal, where seeds of Hindu myths and Buddhist philosophy mingle in Kathmandu’s rich and varied culture, it is a feast, a challenge and a quest for an artist. No matter where I go, I keep coming back to Nepal. There is a magnet in my heart that always pulls me back to this Valley.”
Who Loves Kathmandu More Than Me?
Kathmandu Art, Lazimpat
Till 5 May