Art History



Degree Name

Master of Arts in Art History (M.A.)

Type of Paper/Work

Qualifying paper


Elizabeth Kindall

Second Advisor

Craig Eliason

Third Advisor

Heather M. Shirey


Artist Baatarzorig Batjargal (b. 1983) confronts social, political, and environmental problems in Mongolia using the genre of Mongol zurag. Mongol zurag or “Mongolian painting” is a national genre of painting in Mongolia with roots in the early twentieth century. This paper examines two paintings by the artist, Red Hero (2016) and Smoke (2017). Both compositions are extremely visually and rhetorically complex with intricately rendered detail. The central icons of Red Hero and Smoke are two of Mongolia’s most important protective deities, Jamsran (Tibetan: Beg tse) and Vajrapāṇi (Mongolian: Ochirvaani, Tibetan: chag na dor je), respectively. The deities are surrounded by a chaotic melee of Buddhist, folkloric, and pop culture symbols.

Through his complex iconography, I argue that in both these works, Baatarzorig
visualizes the Mongolian nation to be under imminent threat of destruction. In his
work, Baatarzorig highlights issues including pollution, cultural disintegration,
environmental destruction, and the effects of globalization. These issues have
threatened traditional nomadic practices in Mongolia, which are a defining part of
Mongolian national identity. With the erosion of nomadic culture, Mongolians
must renegotiate Mongolian national identity. This paper is grounded in theories
of national identity formation in modern and contemporary Mongolia. It also
incorporates discussion of the history of Mongolian Buddhism and contemporary
environmental issues in order to illuminate the artist’s complex iconography.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.