Making art for everyday life

After finding refuge in Lowell eight years ago, Yary Livan and his family finally own a home with a yard. Beside their light blue house on Franklin Street is a welcoming green space where Yary has created a peaceful sculpture garden. Just to the left of some blooming echinacea sits Livan’s 38-inch tall ceramic spirit house. He had patiently loaned it to us for the Keepers of Tradition exhibition, where it sat encased in a plexiglas vitrine for over a year, along with other sacred pieces of folk art.


Now the spirit house has found its rightful home. Yary’s wife, Nary Tith, had explained to us that in Cambodia, where Buddhists pray on a daily basis, temples, and pagodas are often built far from villages. Therefore, many people construct their own spirit houses for their yards. Typically, spirit houses are highly ornamented wood or cement structures limited to a handful of standard designs. Yary chose to make his spirit house of clay because he wanted to combine his skills as a ceramist with his Khmer heritage.

Their home is filled with Yary’s ceramic work — elephant pots, vases, and cooking vessels.

Indeed, even the kitchen table is a work of mosaic art.

This tiny grandchild is certainly growing up in a home rich in Cambodian material culture. Perhaps she will one day carry on the tradition.