Culture
10:57 am
Fri December 14, 2012

"Land of the Rising Sun" exhibits Japanese culture

Every few years, the South Haven Center for the Arts has a cultural exhibit. This year, the center will turn into a little slice of Japan.

“We are making hundreds of white origami cranes and around a hundred cherry blossom blooms," says Melissa Warner-Talcott, exhibitions coordinator for the South Haven Center for the Arts. "We will have the cherry tree wrapping around the staircase."

Warner-Talcott and Public Relations Coordinator Kirsten Book-Anthony have been working round the clock to fold all of the origami for the exhibit. The exhibit, called “Land of the Rising Sun,” features Midwest artists who are influenced by Japanese artwork: Tina Lynch Wilson from Indianapolis, Allison Svoboda from Chicago, and Kalamazoo woodblock print artist Mary Brodbeck.

Brodbeck says it’s not easy to describe Japanese art. But she says Japanese artists often use empty space to draw your eyes to different areas of the work, like the rocks in a Zen rock garden.

“It’s about the empty space. The art is about what’s not there,” says Brodbeck. “You know, like in music sometimes the spaces between the notes are just as important as the notes or the beats. It’s that clarity of purpose.”

But the art displays are only about a third of what you’ll see in the exhibit. There’s everything from Japanese comic books to kimonos. Warner-Talcott says Japanese men and women wear thinner kimonos inside the house and thicker kimonos when they go outside or for formal celebrations. Most of the children’s books, toys, and candy we’ve donated by Coloma resident Mansano Crago who emigrated from Japan. Warner-Talcott says the designs on children’s items are usually brightly colored and kind of busy looking.

“There’s a lot of stuff crammed into one area,” Warner-Talcott says. “And I think that’s part of their attitude and their culture there. They’re just so enlivened and they’re full of energy there.”

Even kid’s lunchboxes or bento boxes are elaborate.

“The mothers in Japan have contests with each other to try to create the most elaborate and beautiful bento box. And if you just Google ‘bento boxes,’ you will see a wide range of different designs that these parents have come up with. Everything from Mario to Angry Birds, a lot of pop culture references. They’re just absolutely stunning.”

Warner-Talcott continues, “I myself purchased a few things to make bento boxes and I have a mold that you put a hot dog in. And it comes into two pieces, but when you put the hot dog in it and press them together, the hot dog turns into a crab.”

Mary Brodbeck says art is a large part of Japanese culture.

“Everywhere you go in Japan, it’s a visual feast. There’s nothing that is not thought about in how it’s presented. You know, everything from a toothpick to—gosh, just everything. Everything is highly visual.”

You can see the “Land of the Rising Sun” exhibit at the South Haven Center for the Arts starting Sunday.