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Asian Arts Council 2023-24 General Meeting Lectures

Each month the Asian Arts Council presents a program featuring a distinguished scholar, curator, collector or Asian arts enthusiast of note. We meet the last Thursday of the month on Zoom. Members and Docents are sent a link every month as part of membership. We welcome new members! Non-members may register by finding the date on the calendar of The San Diego Museum of Art. Click here! Once registered, an invitation email will be sent. Donations are welcome to help bring speakers.

Archives: Lectures by fiscal year
FY24 lecture images panel

Click on a date line below for a lecture summary from the Asian Arts Council Newsletter.

Jul. 27, 2023 - 1:00 p.m. The Art of Literacy in Early Modern Japan*  Mai Yamaguchi, PhD, Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) 

July 27, 2023 Japanese literacy through art, Mai Yamaguchi, MIA
Toad and Mouse, Getsuji
Ink on paper MIA 2013.29.157

  The rapid development of literacy in the Edo Period (1603-1868) made Japan one of the most literate countries of the time. Reading and writing was taught in temple schools to people of the merchant and lower classes, and due to the expansion of the printing industry, books were readily available from lending libraries and bookshops. Woodblock printing allowed books to be illustrated with images that enhanced the text and captivated readers. Literature such as The Tale of Genji that was once available only to the elite became widespread and familiar to the lower classes. Sometimes colorful images of animals and insects or landscapes were borrowed from books, then hand-copied and made into picture books with no text or into hand scrolls. The Art of Literacy in Early Modern Japan was presented by Mai Yamaguchi, Ph.D., Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Curator of Japanese and Korean Art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art who is curator of the exhibition of the same name at MIA. A virtual tour allows a leisurely stroll through the galleries of the exhibit. (Turn the image to the right or left and follow the circles on the floor).

  Prior to joining MIA, Dr. Mai Yamaguchi was a Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and she curated the exhibition, Animals and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Japan, at the Princeton University Art Museum. She received her MA and PhD in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University.

Aug 31 - 1:00 p.m. Books and Things: Korean Joseon Dynasty Screens  Almiede "Allie" Arnell, JD, Docent, San Diego Museum of Art, in charge of Virtual Tours, Art History Instructor  

Aug 31, 2023 Korean Screens, Allie Arnell
Books and Scholars' Accoutrements (Ch’aekkŏri), Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 2014.198
  So powerful and adaptable is Chaekgeori, an 18th century Korean style of painting showing screens with multiple shelves of “books and things,” that it continues into contemporary art today. Introduced by King Jeongjo (r. 1776-1800), his scholarly love of books and the power of knowledge, caused him to commission a large eight-panel screen depicting bookshelves full of books as a backdrop framing his throne. In her fascinating presentation, Books and Things: Korean Joseon Dynasty Screens, Allie Arnell, SDMA docent, illuminated how this genre spread throughout Korean society. The elite class adapted these screens to depict their appreciation for scholarly pursuits, and included auspicious symbols to ensure prosperity, longevity and many sons to look after them in later years. Although a rigidly hierarchical form of Confucianism reinforced the stratified society of the time, this art form expanded to all classes, moving beyond the early dictates of style, to more colorful depictions of many flowers, fruits and even eyeglasses and watches, untethered from the shelves of a bookcase, simply floating in space. Modern Chaekgeori paintings provide artists with an opportunity for social commentary on consumerism and materialism, and the clutter of useless knickknacks.

Sep. 28 - 1:00 p.m. The Ramayana Travels from India to Southeast Asia  Ravi Reddy, MD, Docent, SAAC 

AAC Newsletter – October 2023, p 2     

Oct 26, 2023 Washi Paper, Hanging Sail, Meher McArthur
The Ramayana Travels from India to Southeast Asia was elucidated by Ravinder Reddy who outlined the themes of the several-thousand-year old Hindu epic, the Ramayana, which tells the tale of the righteous Rama, his devoted wife Sita, and his loyal brother Lakshmana, and the tribulations of their 14-year travels in exile. The episodes of the abduction of Sita by the lustful Ravana, the alliance with the Monkey God, Hanuman’s army for help in her rescue, and the vanquishing of Ravana in a final battle provide compelling stories that have conveyed moral and spiritual guidance to the listeners through the oral storyteller tradition for centuries. As the Ramayana traveled with Indian traders, it spread throughout Southeast Asia, and was adapted in different versions, sometimes with changed names, new stories or different traits of the key figures. The popular stories are also performed through music and dance with elaborate costumes, precise footwork and hand gestures, and expressive facial expressions, and remain a vibrant part of modern cultural life.

Ravinder Reddy, MD, is a psychiatrist, author and teacher. He has been deeply interested in many aspects of Indian art, and is the coordinator the South Asian Arts Council Study Group.

Oct. 26 - 1:00 p.m. Washi Transformed: Nine Contemporary Japanese Artists Take on Traditional Handmade Paper  Meher McArthur, Asian art historian, Asian art curator, Author and Educator   

AAC Newsletter – November-December 2023, p 2 & 3     

Oct 26, 2023 Washi Paper, Hanging Sail, Meher McArthur

Extraordinary works of art created from simple sheets of paper were revealed by Japanese art historian Meher McArthur in Washi Transformed: Nine Contemporary Japanese Artists Take on Traditional Handmade Paper. Washi paper is made from the inner bark of gampi, mitsumata or paper mulberry plants through a laborious process of boiling, beating, then spreading the pulp thinly onto a screen for drying into sheets of paper. The nine artists discussed created astonishing, mesmerizing and whimsical works of art from this washi paper. Kyoko Ibe’s layered sheets of washi in Hanging Sail, evoke a gentle sea breeze, while Kakuko Ishii’s army of twisted and tied paper cords appear to march along a wall like curious alien creatures.

Oct 26, 2023 Washi Paper, Paper Strings, Meher McArthur
Kakuko Ishii, Japanese Paper Strings Musubu W1

Oct 26, 2023 Washi Paper, Stone Light Objects, Meher McArthur
Eriko Horiki, Ishi (Stone) Light Objects
Eriko Horiki, who transitioned from a career in banking to master and preserve traditional paper-making for future generations, uses washi to create monumental architectural works as well as illuminated, textured paper sculptures that are simultaneously ethereal and functional.

Oct 26, 2023 Washi Paper, Butterfly, Meher McArthur
Hina Aoyama, Papillon

Hina Aoyama creates delicate lace-like and extraordinarily finely detailed works using very fine scissors to express the beauty of nature.

Yuko Nishumura is a paper sculptor whose series of three mandala-like white pleated disks evoke a hypnotic and meditative effect through the undulating lines of their repetitive folds.
Oct 26, 2023 Washi Paper, folded mandalas, Meher McArthur
Eriko Horiki, Ishi (Stone) Light Objects
To view the creations of all of these artists, the exhibit, Washi Transformed: New Expressions in Japanese Paper, is on display at the Mingei International Museum thru January 7, 2024.

Meher McArthur is an Asian art historian specializing in Japanese art, with degrees from Cambridge University and London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She was Curator of East Asian Art at Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena, CA (1998-2006), and for over a decade has curated traveling exhibitions for International Arts & Artists (IA&A), including the Mingei’s current exhibition.

Jan 25 - 1:00 p.m. Modern and Contemporary
Art in Nepal: An Introduction  
Owen Duffy, Ph.D., Nancy C. Allen Curator and Director of Exhibitions at Asia Society Texas     

Jan 25, 2024 Moon Over Kathmandu, Dr. Owen Duffy
Lain Singh Bangdel, Moon Over Kathmandu
A glimpse into the modern art of Nepal opened a window on the captivating work of renowned artist and polymath Lain Singh Bangdel. In Modern and Contemporary Art in Nepal: An Introduction, Dr. Owen Duffy illuminated Bangdel’s career from humble beginnings where he was born in 1919 on a tea estate in Darjeeling, and earning a Fine Arts degree from the Government College of Arts and Crafts in Calcutta as well as writing several novels considered the first realistic Nepali literature. Formative years in the Paris art scene associating with Picasso, Braque and other South Asian artists led to his own distinctive style of abstraction, representation or sometimes a combination of them, applied to Nepalese subjects. At the invitation of Nepal’s King Mahendra in 1961, he was invited to establish the modern art movement in Kathmandu and he later headed the Royal Nepal Academy. In his later years, he taught Nepali History of Art in the U.S., wrote groundbreaking books on Nepalese art, and advocated for its repatriation to Nepal. He died in Nepal in 2002. Owen Duffy, Ph.D. is the Nancy C. Allen Curator and Director of Exhibitions at Asia Society Texas. Previously, he was director of the Yeh Art Gallery at St. John’s University, Queens, New York, where he organized more than 20 exhibitions, including Lain Singh Bangdel: Moon over Kathmandu, the first solo museum exhibition outside Nepal of the country’s preeminent modern artist. He received his Ph.D. from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2016 where his doctoral advisor was Dina Bangdel, art historian, author and curator; she was the daughter of Lain Singh Bangdel.

Feb 29 - 1:00 p.m. The Korean Art Society   Robert Turley, President, Korean Art Society and owner of Korean Art and Antiquities Gallery in Times Square 

With great enthusiasm, president and founder of the Korean Art Society, Robert Turley, orchestrated a whirlwind tour through the deep recesses of the storage vaults of many major art museums, revealing rarely seen treasures of Korean art. Some of his visits to

Feb 29, 2024, The Korean Art Society, Robert Turley
storage areas have led to the reclassification of the origin of mislabeled Japanese swords, and to alerting the New York Public Library to the pricelessness of their rare gold-on-black Goryeo Buddhist manuscript. Among the topics discussed were Korea’s Goryeo period (918-1392) celadon ceramics which were highly prized for their jade green color as well as their inlaid decoration, and were so esteemed by China’s Song dynasty that they were pronounced “first under heaven.” The buncheon ceramics of following dynasty, the Joseon (1392-1910), produced wares with spontaneous designs that were stamped, incised, inlaid and/or painted on the ceramics, as well as pure white, undecorated porcelain that was of such a high quality that it was accepted as tribute to the Ming emperor.

Robert Turley established the Korean Art Society in 2008 and its mission of promoting appreciation of Korean art and culture through tours of Korean art exhibitions and collections, and he publishes the only English language periodical outside of Korea on Korean art.

Mar 28 - 1:00 p.m. Spirit and Art
in the Japanese Garden  
Stephen Mansfield, British writer and photographer  

The sacred spaces of the earliest inhabitants of Japan contained the primordial elements that evolved to become the Japanese garden that is familiar today. The common denominator of these gardens – stones – was illuminated in Spirit and Art in the Japanese Garden by Stephen Mansfield. The animistic belief that an inherent spirit dwelled in plants, animals, rivers and mountains meant that special places demarcated with stones could represent purified spaces for communicating with the natural spirits. The spirits became the kami of the Shinto religion where large sacred rocks represented permanence and longevity, and the forest could serve as a shrine. When Chan Buddhism arrived from China in the 6th C., it was adopted in Japan as Zen Buddhism where austere rock and raked gravel gardens promoted the acetic practice of meditation to gain enlightenment. The raked gravel or sand could represent ripples in a pond or a flowing stream; cascading rocks might be a waterfall;

March 28, 2024 Spirit & Art in the Japanese Garden, Stephen Mansfield
vertical rocks suggested mountains; three upright stones symbolized Buddha and his attendants. Some garden styles that developed in later periods were the abundantly green moss garden, the rustic tea garden, and strolling gardens featuring a meandering path, ponds, streams, bridges and viewpoints. Advice that is still practiced today is found in an early garden design manual on determining the placement of stones: “obey the request of the stone.”
Stephen Mansfield is a British writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 60 magazines, newspapers and journals worldwide, and he is a regular contributor to the Japan Times and Nikkei Asia. He has had 20 books published: Tokyo: A Cultural And Literary History, 2009; Japanese Stone Gardens: Origins, Meaning, Form (forward by Donald Richie), 2010; Japan’s Master Gardens: Lessons in Space & Environment, 2011; Tokyo A Biography, 2017; 100 Japanese Gardens, 2019; 100 Tokyo Sights, 2020, and four of them on the culture and people of Laos. He is currently working on a book on modern Japanese garden design.

Apr 25 - 1:00 p.m. Meiji Aesthetics   Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art at LACMA, ret.  

Apr 25, 2024 Meiji Aesthetics - Hollis Goodall
Highlighting the Aesthetics of the Meiji Period in Japan, Hollis Goodall noted the fundamental changes that followed the overthrow of the shoguns and reinstatement of the emperor in 1868 that affected all classes of Japan from the samurai to its artists. After decades of isolation, new ideas from the West were embraced in government, technology and the arts. In the 1870s, a government instituted art school employed Italian artists to teach the techniques of Western style realism in oil painting, sculpture, metalwork and ceramics. By participating in international expositions, Japan not only captured the world’s attention by displaying its unique lacquerware, cloisonné, ceramics and other crafts, but also sold enough goods at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial to balance its trade budget. Collectors bought works of the acclaimed cloisonné artist Namikawa Yasuyuki (1845–1927) who created a transparent black glaze and a hidden-wire technique that few could match, and over a long career, he gravitated toward the modern pictorial style. The innovative high-relief ceramics of Miyagawa Kozan (1842–1916) involving realistically carved animal figures about to leap off his bowls and vases won prizes at several world expositions. The foremost lacquer artist, Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), experimented extensively by mixing lacquer with other substances which allowed him to paint with lacquer on paper and to create a greater range of colors.

Hollis Goodall, recently retired Curator of Japanese Art at LACMA, has overseen more than 275 installations of permanent collections and private exhibitions. Widely published on Japanese art in both essays and catalogs, Goodall received her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and a Master’s Degree in East Asian Art from the University of Kansas.

May 30 - 1:00 p.m. Ottoman influence on Batik in Indonesia   Thomas Murray, independent researcher, collector, lecturer and private dealer of Asian and Tribal art  


May 30, 2024, Ottoman influence on Batik in Indonesia
In presenting Ottoman Influences on Islamic Batik from Indonesia, a Context of Understanding, Thomas Murray revealed a whole new world of calligraphic batik textiles which were made primarily in Jambi, west Sumatra, and the north coast of Java. These were patterned by hand-painted wax resist, Tulis, and were used during sacred ceremonies.

A fascinating exploration of trade routes revealed the paths used to the most coveted spices, initially via Istanbul, the crossroads of Europe and Asia. These trade routes were greatly expanded after the Portugese rounded the horn of the African continent. Cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace were highly prized commodities. With this trade came the spread of Islam, which influenced the original animistic religions of the area. Arabic writing preserves the divine word of the Koran and is considered sacred. The use of the official signature of the Ottoman emperor as an icon served as both a statement of political alliance as well as a talismanic device. Such a striking graphic device was thought to ward off the evil eye. The many uses of calligraphy as well as specific imagery like birds in different types of batik textiles reveal a 500-year relationship between Turkey and Indonesia.

Thomas Murray is an independent researcher, collector, lecturer and private dealer of Asian and tribal art with an emphasis on Indonesian sculpture and textiles. He has been a contributing editor to HALI magazine for thirty years, serves as its in-house consultant on ethnographic textiles, and has featured in more than 50 publications. His most recent books, Textiles of Japan, Rarities From the Himalayas to Hawaii, and Textiles of Indonesia, were met with critical acclaim.

Jun 27 - 1:00 p.m. HYBRID, meaning, IN PERSON LECTURE and on Zoom, NAGA TEXTILES, Officer Installation and Reception in the Museum Boardroom Courtenay McGowen, co-Chair Asian Arts Council Programs, past-Chair AAC and Study Group, MA Art History, Columbia, Board member Mingei International Museum  

Apr 25, 2024 Meiji Aesthetics - Hollis Goodall
In June, Courtenay McGowen presented her in-depth research on Naga Textiles of Northeast India: Tribal Variations in Back-Strap Loom Weaving. The Naga people comprise many diverse tribal cultures with a rich history of back-strap loom weaving. Their traditional patterns vary from tribe to tribe and village to village, and generally reflect an individual's standing within his community. Patterns of cowrie shell ornamentation are meticulously sewn on a man’s cloth, by himself, and reflect the number of feasts-of-merit he has given and/or the number of heads he has taken in battles. All of this is based on the concept of fertility as it relates to one’s home village. The Naga are a proud tribal people even today, carrying forward their weaving traditions in unique ways.