All posts in “Gardner Center”

Gardner Center goes down the Silk Roads of History

What is it about Silk Roads history and art that interests so many people? In the late 19th century, German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the term ‘Silk Road’ or ‘Silk Routes’ as part of his map-making efforts. After all, better maps of travel routes had commercial value for access to coal or building railroads, for instance. In the early 20th century, several spectacular “discoveries” (ie, new to the West) of magnificent troves of art and manuscripts in Central Asia and western China fueled the fascination.

Courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy, photo: Wu Jian. 

Now the plural ‘Silk Roads’ is used to better describe the many complex historic trade routes through the Eurasian continent. The idea of commercial exchange across a continent that involved interactions of many cultures, languages, religions, and arts can be such an appealing picture of cosmopolitan societies—in contrast to present-day tensions at home and abroad. “Silk Road nostalgia” refers to interpreting this history in the imagination as a time of tolerance and international understanding as well as prosperity, rooted in hope for peaceful and respectful global exchange in future.

The Jewel of Muscat, a reconstructed replica of a ninth century Omani trading ship, sails into the harbour of Galle, 116 km (72 miles) south of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, on April 19, 2010. The ship, built in a traditional design without nails and sewn together with coconut fibers, left Oman on February 15 to re-enact the old trade routes used by Arab traders, with its final port of call in Singapore, according to the organizers of the voyage. AFP PHOTO/ Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI. (Photo credit should read LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP/Getty Images)

The fall Saturday University Lecture Series, Silk Roads Past and Present: From Ancient Afghan Treasure to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, presents current understandings in seven lectures. Beginning with a talk on the Begram Hoard excavated in Afghanistan, we consider how these storerooms from the first century CE could contain Roman glass, Chinese lacquer, and extraordinarily carved ivories from India. A talk on Maritime Silk Roads explores the shipping that actually transported more goods than overland routes, despite the persistent image of camel caravans.

Bodhisattva leading a lady to the Pure Land (detail), Chinese, Tang dynasty, c. 851–900 CE, Hanging scroll, Ink and colors on silk, Height: 80.5 centimetres, Width: 53.8 centimetres, ©️Trustees of the British Museum. 

The Silk Roads also saw the spread of Buddhism, and two speakers explore Buddhist art in China. Two lesser-known religions are introduced in a talk on Zoroastrian and Manichaean arts. And what about silk? Find out about silk and fashion in Tang Dynasty China, as trade made new textile technologies, colors, and patterns available.  The series concludes with a talk on China’s current international initiative also referred to as the New Silk Road. Please join us!

– Sarah Loudon, Director, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Image: Mogao Cave 237. Image courtesy of the Dunhuang Academy, photo: Zhang Weiwen. 
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Spring Brings Trans Plants to Saturday University Lecture Series

Are you gearing up your garden for spring? Think about plants in all new ways when you attend the Gardner Center’s Spring Saturday University Lecture Series.

Join us for five talks by speakers who think about plants in Asia from different perspectives. First, on March 16, we’ll hear about penjing—the Chinese predecessor to bonsai—plus how and why a Southern Chinese style inspires contemporary bonsai artists across the world. Our speaker Aarin Packard, curator of the Pacific Bonsai Museum, explains how he first became interested in bonsai: “As a kid I was exposed to bonsai by my father and by Mr. Miyagi [from “The Karate Kid”).

Next, on March 30, Jerome Silbergeld will share his art historian’s perspective on Chinese gardens, and what they meant to their creators.

Clearly, bonsai and gardens are both art forms that are constantly changing.  The series continues through April with talks on matsutake mushrooms, eucalyptus plantations, and botanical collecting in the mountains of Yunnan Province in Southwest China—one of the world’s richest places in biodiversity.

– Sarah Loudon, Director, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Images: Photo: Pacific Bonsai Museum. Photo: Jerome Silbergeld
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Get Worldly with The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project

Catch The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project playing a free concert outdoors as the first musical act in our World Music Series. Throughout the summer months SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas presents four free concerts in the Volunteer Park Amphitheater that bring music from all over the world to Seattle. Find out more about the female-focused music group and mark your calendars for their performance, July 13!

The sounds of steel pan music enliven a summer evening outdoors! Originally from Trinidad, the steel pan is a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the descendants of slaves brought to the Caribbean from Africa who created this instrument from oil drums and other discarded metal containers. Steel pan can now be found all over the world and captivates the hearts of all those lucky enough to get a chance to play it.

Michael Shantz and I formed The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project (SWSPP) in 2013 as a collaboration. The project started as a weekly beginner steel pan class and within the first year students performed at the Women Who Rock UnConference in Seattle’s Washington Hall. Since then, over 100 women have taken classes and, of that, at least 20 have played in the performance group.

The performance group consists of women with an array of musical backgrounds. Some pan players such as Ceda Clemmons and Miho Takekawa have been playing steel pan for over 20 years, while many others had never played with a musical ensemble before joining SWSPP. The beauty of steel pan is that it’s a highly accessible instrument, you can come into class having had no prior experience playing an instrument and leave being able to play a song as an ensemble 4-6 weeks later, which is the typical duration of the beginner class series. The mission of SWSPP is to give women and girls the opportunity to experience the energy and joy that playing music gives us. The music scene tends to be heavily dominated by male musicians—a boys club of sorts. This project gives women an opportunity to enter the arena of musical performance in a fun and accessible way.

Tashie LeMaitre says of her experience as a group member, “Being a part of this project has been like joining another family. I’ve learned so much since I started playing with The Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project and have seen so many new places that I might never have gotten the chance to see. I’ve always loved pan, but have since fallen in love with it even more. I look forward to what the future holds for us.”

SWSPP frequently collaborates with other seasoned musicians in Seattle, both female and male, for larger shows and productions. Ann Reynolds, Marina Albero, Obe Quarless, Makala Romero, Otieno Terry, Adriana Giordano, Teo Shantz  and Kate Olson are just a few of the local musicians with whom the group has partnered. You can catch the group performing on stages all throughout King County!

– Oriana Estrada, Administrative Director, Seattle Women’s Steel Pan Project

Photo: Courtesy of The Women’s steel Pan Project.
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Gardner Center: Making Shawl Talk

This spring SAM’s Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas is out and about, hosting happenings in Bellevue and Columbia City! Please join us on March 29 for a SAM members’ reception and public program at the Bellevue Arts Museum. Featuring Rosemary Crill on Kashmir Shawls and the West, she will speak in conversation with historian Prof. Anand Yang, University of Washington

Kashmir shawls launched an amazing global fashion phenomenon. When introduced to Europe from India in the late 18th century, the soft goats’ wool (“cashmere”) was a new sensation, as were their paisley patterns. Even the word, “shawl’,” was introduced to English from the Persian term also used in India.

British and French textile producers rushed to invent ways to make cheaper imitations—and lo and behold, it’s the Industrial Revolution and colonial enterprise in action. Once the British shawls not only replaced imports from Kashmir but were exported in huge quantities to India, Kashmir’s highly-skilled and specialized weavers were doomed.

This colonial dynamic paralleled the much larger-scale damage to India’s cotton weavers. Protest in India and a social movement to boycott foreign goods led in time to the independence movement—think of Gandhi and his spinning wheel. As Crill points out in The Fabric of India exhibition catalogue (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2015), “the effect of this reversal in the direction of trade . . . was to affect the subsequent history of South Asia and the world as a whole.”

Rosemary Crill, former Senior Curator for South Asia at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is a legend in the textile world. As part of the discussion, an unidentified old textile piece from India from a Washington museum collection will be shown to Crill for her assessment. Be there to find out more!

Shawls

Can you tell which of these are from Kashmir and which are the British versions?

– Sarah Loudon, Director, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas

Images: Early Kashmir Shawl, early 19th century, Indian, cashmere, 128 x 49 in., Gift of Mrs. Reginald H. Parsons, Seattle Art Museum 36.52. Shawl, 1856, Scottish, wool, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994.327. image in the public domain. Shawl, 1865–75, Scottish, wool and silk; Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Catherine Courtney, 1933; 2009.300.3010 image in the public domain. Shawl, mid-19th century, Attributed to India, Kashmir; Wool, silk; double interlocking twill tapestry weave, embroidered, pieced; Gift of H. de B. Parsons, 1923; Metropolitan Museum of Art 23.126.1. image in the public domain. Kashmir shawl, ca.1830, Kashmir, for the Western market, woven pashmina wool, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, IS 96-1948. Muslin dress and Kashmir shawl. Dress, Indian muslin made up in England, ca.1805-10. Shawl, Kashmir for the western market, ca.1750-60. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Circ. 30-1958 (dress); IM 17-1915 (shawl).Victoria and Albert Museum. Preliminary sketch design for paisley shawl, Scotland. Plate XI in Matthew Blair, The Paisley Shawl and the Men Who Produced It, Alexander Gardner: 1904. Detail, top image. Early Kashmir Shawl, early 19th century, Indian, Kashmir, 128 x 49 in., Gift of Mrs. Reginald H. Parsons, Seattle Art Museum 36.52. Kashmir shawl, after 1865, Indian, wool with embroidery, 82 x 81 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, Seattle Art Museum 40.87
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Dirty, Sacred Rivers, a Talk by Cheryl Colopy at SAAM on November 8

Cheryl Colopy discusses her book, Dirty, Sacred Rivers: Confronting South Asia’s Water Crisis, which takes readers throughout the enormous Ganges river basin–in North India, Nepal and Bangladesh, from the Himalaya to the Bay of Bengal. The book is a vibrant first-person narrative that brings the complex issue of water sustainability to life, as she observes both gross mismanagement of rivers and also efforts to revive traditional sustainable methods of water management.

Two of her recent op-eds appeared in the New York Times and Yale Environment 360.

New York Times

Yale Environment 360

Cheryl Colopy is an environmental journalist who wrote Dirty, Sacred Rivers during seven years of travel and residence in South Asia. She is an award-winning reporter, formerly with National Public Radio affiliate KQED in San Francisco.

Presented by the Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas with the Elliott Bay Book Company.

Event Details
Date: Thursday, November 8
Time: 7 pm
Location: Seattle Asian Art Museum
More information…

Free

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Words on Water: Indian Writers in Conversation

After outstanding conversations last summer, Gardner Center for Asian Art and Ideas is once again teaming up with Elliott Bay Book Company and Teamwork Productions of Delhi, India to provide two stimulating evenings of discussion in Volunteer Park. Each night, writers from India engage in dialogue with local writers of Indian origin.

Tonight- Wednesday July 11th, from 6:30 to 9  join M.J. Akbar, an acclaimed journalist and the Editiorial Director of India Today as he shares his views on the subcontinent and his life as a journalist alongside fellow journalist Shiraz Sidhva. There will be time for discussion with the audience following their discussion.

Tomorrow Night- Thursday July 12th, from 6:30 to 9 enjoy first Nayanjot Lahiri, a Professor of History at the University of Delhi and author of The Decline and Fall of the Indus Civilization and Finding Forgotten Cities as he is joined for discussion by Vikram Prakash, Professor of Architecture at the UW. Next, Urvashi Butalia, the co-founder of India’s first feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, will discuss India’s partition and more with Sonora Jha, an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Seattle University.

Both evenings will be held in Stimson Auditorium and tickets ($7 members, $12 non-members) include Chai break and light refreshments.

We hope to see you there!

 

-Seattle Asian Art Museum

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Food and Faith in Japan

A fascinating series of lectures will be offered at the Seattle Asian Art Museum on two topics that have increasingly entered the purview of art historians across the world: food and ritual in relation to art.

Japanese culture, both ancient and modern, is rich in elements of ritual display. Foods, drink, implements for ceremonial performance, and a wide range of display objects such as lacquer and ceramics are found on temple and shrine altars. Paintings extoll the sins and virtues of various foods—often in encoded visual subtexts. Mochi, which many of us know as a frozen ice cream treat, traces its origins to secular rituals for harvest or the New Year and religious rites in ancient Japan. Paintings in the Seattle Art Museum collections transport us back in time to the days when wrongly accused courtiers and statesmen took vengeance on the perpetrators of injustice and were pacified only by regular ceremonies at court or posthumous enshrinement at Shinto jinja.

Professor Cynthea J. Bogel (East Asian visual culture and art history, University of Washington) has organized colleagues, community, and students to form a creative collaboration that explores ritual, foods, objects of display, and medieval Japanese painting side by side. Working with the Simpson Center for the Humanities, the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle artist and cultural anthropologist Julia Harrison, and input from Seattle’s Asian-American artist and confectionary-making community, four lectures will be offered at the Seattle Asian Art Museum free of charge.

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Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India

William Dalrymple’s new book with this title just became available in the U.S. a couple of days ago. As intriguing, illuminating and playful as his previous books (The Last Mughal, White Mughals, City of Djinns and more), it is also a mix of historical storytelling, travel adventures,  and deep insight.

We are lucky enough to have him coming to speak next Thursday, June 24, at 7 pm at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, thanks to Elliott Bay Books and Random House.

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