Art and Coffee: Hokusai Edition

August 18, 2011

After a strong start last month, Art and Coffee continued last Friday as our curator Bridget gave a fascinating talk on two Hokusai pieces, Mt. Fuji in Clear Weather and Eagle in a Snowstorm, both of which are currently on display in 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection in the “Beauty of Nature” section. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was a prolific artist of painting and woodblock prints, specifically ukiyo-e, during Japan’s Edo period.

Hokusai’s career began with early exposure to both the publishing industry and printmaking. As a young man he was a book merchant for a time, and also apprenticed a printmaker at a studio. At various points in his long career, Hokusai signed his name differently referring to how he saw himself within the artistic community. As a young artist, he used his master teacher’s name incorporated into his own. By the end of his career, his signature translated to “Old Man Mad with Painting.” Indeed, the quote included in the Eagle in a Snowstorm label states “…nothing I did before the age of 70 was worthy of attention…if I keep trying…at 130 or 140 or more, I will have reached a stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive.”

Mt. Fuji in Clear Weather is part of Hokusai’s most famous collection of works, Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (which actually grew larger than thirty-six over time, and would later be followed by One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji). This collection captures the landmark peak from several angles and contexts. The entire composition is done in a single line, and the detail is done through just a few color fields, even using the character of the wood blocks themselves. “You can actually see the grain of the cherry block,” Bridget said. “Also, you can see how at the base, it looks like someone dragged something through the ink. That’s a gradation effect called bokashi– it takes a high level of technical skill to do this.”

Eagle in a Snowstorm, part of the great Harari collection, is one of the standout works in the whole exhibition. The eagle braces against a fierce wind, with visible tension in his claws gripping the stone. “You can actually see how the wind exposed the bird’s skin under the feathers,” said Bridget. “I think that’s part of the charm of this composition…he’s also worked a fine architecture of the feathers. The structured tail feathers are different from the downy feathers we see on the breast and wing.” Hokusai created a wet snow effect surrounding the bird by flinging the paint-coated brush at the canvas to get a spatter pattern, further heightening the bleak environment against which the eagle struggles.

These two pieces are best appreciated in person, where you can examine the energy and concentration in each stroke. Because they are so sensitive to light, we don’t get to display them as often as we’d like– come visit them while you can!~CM

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). Mt. Fuji in Clear Weather. Japan, Edo Period (1603–1868); c. 1830, Woodblock print on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Everett A. Palmer Jr.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) Eagle in a Snowstorm. Japan, Edo Period (1603–1868); 1848. Color and gofun on paper,  Signed: ‘Gakyorojin Manji yowai Hachijuhassai’; Seal: ‘Hakyu’. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Brumder with Funds for Conservation Provided by Dr. Cathleen A. Godzik in Memory of Her Father.


Stretch: Yoga and Pacific Asia Museum

August 11, 2011

Yoga at Pacific Asia MuseumPacific Asia Museum is many things.  It is the art, the exhibitions, the programs. But all of these have one common– they teach us about the cultures of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Without the fantastic traditions of that region, we wouldn’t be here today!

Yoga, a practice that has found a home in many cultures around the world, has also found a home at Pacific Asia Museum. Its origins lie in South Asia, where it’s associated with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. While the most common form of yoga in the United States is Hatha Yoga, many different forms have been and are still practiced all over the world. As both a spiritual and physical discipline, yoga works toward health and spiritual insight through meditation and often physical poses. However, the history of yoga is broad and varied, with many different philosophies underlying the practice across time, space and cultures. Yoga was first brought to the United States in the late 1900s and grew in popularity over the following century, and today yoga classes are popular offerings at gyms, community centers…and Pacific Asia Museum!

For the past several years, instructor Jill Zepezauer has taught Lunchtime Yoga in our auditorium and has built quite the following. “I love that it’s intimate and adjusted to our individual needs,” said Linda Baum, who has taken the class for over a year. “It’s gentle, but Jill always gives modifications to push ourselves.” Because it’s at lunchtime, this class is a chance to step away from a busy day and just relax for an hour. That’s why Tasha Arratia has loved coming to the class for the past year and a half. “The class makes me feel good about taking time for myself,” she said. “I feel stretched out and very relaxed after the class. I feel like I can face the rest of the say calm and at peace.”

Despite the myriad changes in context and philosophy, practicing yoga today still connects to its ancient roots. And as our class has discovered, there’s no better place to feel this connection than Pacific Asia Museum!~CM

To learn more about our yoga class, visit our website.


Who We Are: Sunny Stevenson

August 4, 2011

Sunny and GaneshAs we’ve shouted from the rooftops, we’re celebrating our 40th Anniversary this year! Much of the programs and exhibitions of 2011 are focused on Pacific Asia Museum’s past, present and future. So in honor of that, this week’s Who We Are post is spotlighting a woman who has been a part of Pacific Asia Museum from the very beginning: our Volunteer Coordinator, Sunny Stevenson. Below is an interview with Sunny where she shares her memories of establishing a museum and the many roles she’s held over the years.

PAM: How did you become a part of Pacific Asia Museum?
I came when the museum opened, in 1971. I think I actually came earlier as a child because my grandmother was across the street, so I probably even knew Grace Nicholson [the original owner of the building], I just can’t remember it. But in 1971, I came because I love Asian art. One of the things that interested me was the Arts Councils– we didn’t have much art in the beginning, so we had a lot of meals and programs in what are now the galleries. I was also heavily involved in the Chinese Arts Council, which has been doing fascinating things to this day. We’ve had some incredible things happen here that have had a great impact on my life. I love the art, but it’s been the people who have kept me here all this time. It’s been such a fabulous thing to watch it grow.

PAM: How did it look when it was all getting started?
Empty. It had been stripped of everything. And so we started from scratch. Down where the store is now is where they had the membership office, and they called it the “black hole of Calcutta” because it was all painted black! That’s how the Pasadena Art Museum had left it.
Sunny's favorite bowl

Sunny's favorite bowl: Click to enlarge


PAM: How is this building different today?
We have exhibitions and collections now! But also, the garden is different. When Grace built it, the courtyard was just a long garden down the center. It’s truly more Chinese now. What we do has changed a great deal too– we happened. We came in, there were wonderful ideas, but now as time has gone by, we’ve evolved from a community-run organization to an accredited museum. We’ve always had heart, but now we have head as well… which helps!

PAM: What’s the best part of being our resident storyteller?
Our museum started because we wanted people to learn that different cultures can be very much alike. The Japanese will fly the carp kite because they want their boys to go upstream against adversity. Well, we want the very same thing, we just don’t have the fun of flying the carp! And so when we look at different cultures and they may look so “quaint” or “exotic”, when you go beneath you find that “hey, this is someone just like me!” and so in Storytime, I try to do just that.

PAM: What’s your favorite piece in the collection?
I LOVE the Ganesha statue. I love to tell the story of how he got his elephant head, and how he gets around– that surprises everyone, because you wouldn’t think that an elephant would go around on a rat! Another piece that I dearly love is the beautiful white jade bowl in the Imperial Ceramics gallery. It has lovely gold detail inside, but if you twist your head a bit, you can see the gorgeous landscape on the outside of the bowl. But it’s pretty hard to pick– I love it all!

You can visit Sunny’s Ganesha friend in our South and Southeast Asian Gallery, and her favorite jade bowl is in our Chinese Ceramics gallery. Sunny always welcomes new volunteers, too!