Sunday was another day of volunteering the at the Mia (Minneapolis Institute of Art) – it was my second time this weekend. On Saturday I led a tour with two other CIF (Collection In Focus) Guides on “Taste of Asia” focused on objects from Japan, Korea and China. The visiting group was about 45 students – of which 15 were on my tour – from a university 3 hours away from the the Twin Cities. The students were from disciplines ranging from Chinese and Japanese language classes, to Global studies/Asian studies. Some were international students from Japan, Taiwan and mainland China, which made me think that they would likely know about the art from their traditions and I invited them to share their knowledge and insights. On my tour was also a Japanese Language faculty member, herself originally from Osaka, Japan.
We enjoyed a good conversation around Jomon ancient Japanese pottery, Korean Buddhist temple scrolls, Japanese reception hall, tea house and tea ware, and Chinese literati spaces and artefacts, horses from the Silk Road.
(Earlier my favorite embodiment of tranquility, the sitting Amida Buddha had stumped me as I prepared for the tour. Looking closer at the slight gap between his sitting form and the lotus base below, light seemed to travel through, no connections and points of contact it seems….I thought, he levitates!)
And on Sunday I led the Japan Art Cart with a CIF colleague, where objects from the Japanese tea house are set up to pick up and touch by the visitors and discuss with us facilitating the conversation and learning. The cart is set up nearby from the beautiful permanent indoor exhibit of a Tea House with its partial recreation of the landscape outside a tea house structure, the tea room with its tatami mat floor where the tea master would serve tea to visitors and the back room where storage of essential items for the ceremony.
While at the cart, I also had a deep conversation with another fellow guide who along with his Japanese wife who is also a guide are experts on the arts and culture of Japan. We talked about the paper arts of Japan, the sophistication of the Japanese storage objects and Japanese design in general, and its influence on America and America’s influence on Japan, the amazing collection we have at the museum and and ways of learning of about history and culture and art and the connections between Japanese and Korean and Chinese Art.
All this makes me realize I am entering a doorway to deeper knowledge of Asian art and culture. I would like to go much deeper into the history, culture and arts of Japan and then reconnect that knowledge to a deeper similar knowledge of China and Korea. Such continued study, beyond my initial Guide training, of the history, culture and art of Japan (and Korea and China) will need time and commitment and travel (exciting!) to local and original sources of the art but I am committed and ready. Let the journey begin!