Last Friday, The Kruizenga Art Museum held its opening reception for the 2019 fall semester. First opened and dedicated in Sept. 2015, the museum is celebrating its fourth year as a medium of cultural celebration and an inspiration to Hope College students and faculty alike. The museum was named after Richard and Margaret Feldmann Kruizenga (‘52), who had the desire to give back to the community. “The reason that Kruizenga gave the money for this museum is because, as Richard put it, ‘Hope College gave me an education that allowed me to go out and experience the world,’” explains Charles Mason, Director and Margaret Feldmann Kruizenga Curator of the Kruizenga Art Museum. “He wanted to give a gift that would bring the world back to Hope College, and I think we’re doing that with these exhibitions.”
This reception was held for the two current exhibits, “Capturing Light: The Art of Shin Sawano, A Tradition for the Future of Japan” and “Deities and Devotions in Mongolian Buddhist Art.” These two exhibits are extremely diverse in appearance, yet are both beautiful in their meaning and intention. “I’m so impressed that Hope College can bring this art to the Kruizenga Art Museum,” Dr. Marla Lunderberg, Associate Professor of English at Hope, expressed while walking the exhibits. “I love the background that Charles Mason brings when he curates a collection like this. I teach a segment on Ming Dynasty China in my cultural heritage course, and I’ve brought my students over to the KAM. He creates a hands-on experience for them to learn about China. So when I look at these 19-20th century materials on Bodhisattvas in Mongolian art, I just think ‘wow, this is so cool; the world is so big, and this piece of it can come to Hope College so we can examine it.”
Students, faculty and Holland residents alike were invited to snack while wandering between these unique presentations of nature and history. “We were thrilled with the event,” says Mason. “So many people came out from the community and from the college. We had donors here, and we’ve had artists here. It’s great when we can get a mix of people like this together, all of whom are interested in art. What we try to do is expose people to a broad range of cultural traditions from around the world.”
“Deities and Devotions in Mongolian Buddhist Art” is a semester-long exhibition, and if you would like more information on this exhibit, see last week’s newsletter for details on the origins and meaning of this unique form of Buddhism. “Capturing Light: The Art of Shin Sawano, A Tradition for the Future of Japan” is the current focus exhibit, which will be on campus until Oct. 26. This show highlights the work of Shin-ichiro (“Shin”) Sawano, a Tokyo native who spends his time as a photographer (or, as he calls it, “Harmographer”), nature sound creator, flower essence creator, and tourism ambassador of South Africa. Sawano’s work focuses on nature, and many of the photographs in the Kruizenga were taken in South Africa. Sawano made an appearance at the Friday reception, and was willing to give the Anchor some insight into his work.
“I’m always thinking about how to transmit the energy from nature,” he explained. “People, whether watching or not watching TV or media, subconsciously imprint these vibrations of energy. When I was staying in South Africa, there was such a wonderful energy there, and we caught it by photograph, sound and other things. The pictures and sounds you can listen to have such harmonized energy, and we are catching it in the body, by the mind. This is a method for making harmonies in the world. This is my dream.” When asked what he hopes students will take from his work, Sawano responded, “Most people aren’t thinking, ‘what for?’ Everyone is just thinking ‘what do I want, how am I going to do that?’ but never thinking ‘what for?’ If a student wants to study, or to create art, I would just like them to consider ‘why do you want to make artwork? What world do you want?’”
“Capturing Light” is a creative look into how the traditions of the past, the beauty of the present and the hope for the future can be interwoven into artistic medium. Sawano’s photographs are printed onto a traditional Japanese paper called Tengujo washi paper, which is made from a mixture of mulberry bark and mountain water. Sawano then applied gold and platinum leaf to the images’ backs. Everything he does to his photographs is with the intention of magnifying or manipulating the effects of light. “When I looked at the photographs and learned about their backings with gold and platinum leaf, I was just so impressed that the artist, in order to push his vision forward, was looking at different techniques no matter the challenges to those techniques. I love the look of the art, and I’m fascinated to learn more about it, and about the artist as well,” said Dr. Lunderberg. Sawano’s exhibit is accompanied by his own video on how he prepares his artwork and how it attains its original yet classic design. This makes every one of his photographs an aesthetic spectacle to admire. His topics of choice range from celestial patterns of the stars and moon to stunning South African natural areas.
On his website, shinsawano.com, Sawano states that “When each person’s unseen heart commands a bird’s-eye view of the creation or destruction of this three-dimensional world, thoughts turn to contemplation of the true nature of art. My hope is to continue creating works that evoke the magnificence and courage of giving life to the ‘now’ as one fragment of nature.” Sawano’s work is proof of the value that patience, perseverance and respect for the natural world can bring to any person’s life. In our current environmental and social climate, “Capturing Light” stands as a resolute reminder for all of us to stop, breathe and watch.