OU Museum of Art: “An Academic Treasure Trove”

I have always loved Japanese art. So, when I learned that my Asian Politics class was attending the OU Museum of Art’s Japanese art exhibition as part of learning about Japanese history and culture—I freaked. Two things I love had come together: learning and art.

Yoshida's woodcut "Sending Boats" series especially stood out to Jacob Tadych '14 in Dr. Steen's Japanese Literature class. WHY?

Yoshida’s woodcut “Sending Boats” series especially stood out to me. The series of images depicts the life of traditional Japanese fishermen from the same perspective during different times of day.

Both my class, taught by Dr. Stephen Herschler, and Dr. Robert Steen’s Japanese  Literature class took full advantage of having the exhibition right here on our campus at the beginning of this semester. Jiki to Hanga: Japanese Porcelain and Prints helped our classes see art as a reflection of a culture and current events, and to explore how art is a means through which cultures can exchange ideas with one another.

“Learning is more effective when it is attached to the real world and becomes not just theoretical but experiential as well,” said Dr. Herschler. “It was an incredible opportunity…(and) a truly fabulous way for the Asian Politics class to start the semester, using art to learn about not just different cultures but also philosophy, international commerce, and politics as reflected in the techniques, materials, and aesthetics of specific artistic works.”

Porcelain detail: Artist unknown. Arita, Japan, late 17th century. Collection of Oglethorpe University. Gift of Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

Porcelain detail: Artist unknown. Arita, Japan, late 17th century. Collection of Oglethorpe University. Gift of Carrie Lee Jacobs Henderson.

Some of the porcelain pieces on view, for example, showed how Western culture influenced Eastern culture. Traditional Japanese art forms are stoic and minimalistic, but that contrasted with the vibrant pieces created by the Japanese for Westerners to display in their Victorian era households.

The displayed works by master printmaker Hiroshi Yoshida gave students a snapshot of Japanese culture in transition from a feudalistic society to the current industrial power. His use of traditional Japanese woodcuts and the European oil and watercolor painting techniques shows the balancing act that resulted from the mash of cultural ideals following WWII. Yoshida’s works are traditional in their minimalism, but also very impactful in that the cultural transition is gently introduced to the viewer. Most prints in the exhibit showed very traditional scenes, like Mount Fuji and shrines or fishermen on sailboats throughout the day, while others showed the shops at night seeming to suggest the beginning of using electric lights by the intensity of the shadows and the use of Western techniques.

Dr. Steen’s class was studying post WWII Japanese literature, coinciding with the time period of the Yoshida prints. His class used the exhibit as context for discussing the cultural transitions in Japan at that time and the effects on the country’s literature. “Art tells stories and I have my students write about those stories,” said Dr. Steen, who uses the themes of memory, cultural identity and travel to relate the texts back to differences in perspective. “There are many ways to make connections to the ideas that we talk about in class, even if they aren’t directly related.”

Elizabeth Peterson, the director of the OU Museum of Art, is thrilled that the classes were able to use the exhibit to compliment their classroom curriculum. “This is precisely why universities have museums—as more than a lovely place to visit—it’s an academic treasure trove for students.”

Dr. Herschler's Asian Politics Class with Dr. Terry Taylor.

Dr. Herschler’s Asian Politics class pictured with Dr. Terry Taylor, who loaned the Yoshida woodcuts to OUMA for the exhibition. Dr. Taylor gave a lecture to the class about the dedication required by Yoshida to create the woodcuts—all of which came from a selected single piece of wood.

OU Museum of Art Now Hosting Three New Exhibitions

Fernand Léger: Fétes de la faim or Feast of Hunger lithograph on display in the Oglethorpe Museum of Art

Fernand Léger: Fétes de la faim or Feast of Hunger lithograph on display in the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art

Life-long learners, students and art lovers should be sure to check out the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art’s three new exhibitions, now on view through December 8, 2013:

The 20th Century Modern Masters exhibition features more than 80 works by three of the 20th century’s modernist leaders. The lithographs, etchings and aquatints on display were inspired by collaborations or interpretations of major literary works by post WWII writers and poets. Each work on display introduces visitors to rhythmic beauty in function and form and gives insight into the artist’s thought process concerning life and literature.

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An artist’s rendition of Victor Hugo.

The French political activist Victor Hugo is best known for his books Les Miserables and Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame). His literature and discourse has since inspired many an artist to celebrate the life and abilities of this literary master. This exhibition is on display in the Center Gallery and features drawings, prints and sculptures by a variety of artists.Most notable among these artists are Jean-François Raffaëlli and Frederick Hendrik Kaemmerer, who were both students of Jean-Léon Gerôme.

Christmas comes early this year at OUMA with Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Paintings. Sundblom is responsible for the quintessential look of The Coca-Cola Company‘s seasonal Santa style, inspired by Clement Clarke Moore 1822 poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas“. His paintings of the jolly and plump Santa we know today were created between the 1930s and 1950s. Sundblom also is known for creating the “Quaker Man” for Quaker Oats and did work for Maxwell House, Colgate, Palmolive and Nabisco.

The Coca-Cola Company presents Haddon Sundblom's art.

Haddon Sundblom’s Santa, now on exhibit courtesy of The Coca-Cola Company.

A Wednesday Lecture Series also accompanies the exhibitions:

  • September 25, 7 p.m. “’Crommelynck’s Le Cocu Magnifique (The Magnificent Cuckold)’ illustrated by Picasso and Robert Andrew Parker,” by Dr. Jay Lutz, Professor of French, Oglethorpe University
  • October 2, 7 p.m. “Victor Hugo and French Romanticism” by Mr. John Daniel Tilford, Collections Manager, OU Museum of Art.
  • October 16, 7 p.m. “Léger, Le Corbusier, Italian Futurists, Machines, and the Dynamic City” by Dr. Jeffrey Collins, Assistant Professor of Art History, Oglethorpe University.
  • November 6, 7 p.m. “Léger’s Modernist Take on Rimbaud’s Illuminations” by Dr. Jay Lutz, Professor of French, Oglethorpe University.
  • November 20, 7 p.m. “Georges Braque Paintings and Prints” by Ms. Renée Maurer, Assistant Curator, The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.
  • December 4, 7 p.m. “Keeping Christmas: From Pagan to Puritan to Popular Culture” by Ms. Elizabeth Peterson, Director, OU Museum of Art.

View the first lecture,”The Right and Left Bank of Parisian Artists: The Bateau Lavoir and the Ruche,” by OU Professor of French Jay Lutz:

The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art is open Tuesday-Sunday, 12 noon to 5 p.m. and closed Mondays and university holidays. General admission is $5; free admission for OUMA members, children under 12 and with a Petrel Pass. For more information, visit museum.oglethorpe.edu or call 404-364-8555.

Study Abroad Offers Transformation

Sophomore Emily Prichard traveled to London and Paris during the summer of 2013 as part of a short-term study abroad trip, led by Dr. Jeffrey Collins and Professor Loehle. Students explored and studied these cities as the settings for artistic and architectural revolutions. Here are some of Emily’s experiences in her own words.

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Emily in the Sainte-Chapelle cathedral in Paris.

This trip to London and Paris compounded my passion for art; I can’t think of a career for myself that doesn’t involve art. This was partly inspired by the atmosphere of purity and wonder that art can offer; art, in all its forms seemed to transform its environment into a sacred, treasured space.

One of the best examples of this transformation was Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France. The entire second story of the cathedral was floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows. Even though I had prepared a report on this cathedral, I was still incredibly blown away by the atmosphere, how the colors and light transformed a relatively tiny cathedral. With sunlight shining through the window panes, it felt as though the cathedral was a divine, living painting that the group had the privilege of experiencing from the inside: in a way, it felt like our tour group was literally inside the scene of a painting, only to realize it for a living organism. To personally see the mastery of detail involved to create each tiny scene was the equivalent to standing next to an expansive ocean: it gave one the feeling of not only being extremely small in comparison, but being somehow connected just by recognizing the true beauty and purity of the object. Sainte-Chapelle held beauty, purity, and color that can only be truly understood if experienced; even all of the research prior to Paris had not quite prepared me (or the rest of the group) for the atmosphere of the cathedral.

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Dr. Collins (right) talks to students about Cezanne at the Courtauld Gallery in London.

One of my most favorite museums out of the entire trip was the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, France. Focusing entirely on ancient and oceanic artifacts, this museum invoked a sense of wonder and mystery in the same way that Sainte-Chapelle invoked beauty and purity. My favorite aspect of the museum is the fact that these artifacts are so appreciated, even though archeologists still don’t know the meaning or purpose behind several of the objects. Therefore, the objects give off an air of mystery, inviting the viewer to wonder, to imagine themselves several thousand years ago, crafting what they see in the present. I was personally struck by the eerie feeling of a few; it felt as though these pieces were intended for rituals, or for people (or spirits) of great power, that we were somehow intruding. This museum felt like a giant time capsule, the modern design failing to exhaust a feeling of stepping back into a lost era. While Sainte-Chapelle helped me to rediscover the purity of art, Quai Branly helped to create the idea of art sometimes becoming a separate entity all its own, significance defined by the synesthesia of the viewer.

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A scene from the Quai Branly Museum in Paris.

Another important impact of this trip was realizing the general appreciation that Europe and the United Kingdom seem to have for art. The crowds in each museum and cathedral were VERY different than American museums/historic places. The average American seems to care less about the meaning or purpose of the piece; unless somewhat studied in art, they see museums as places for their amusement on rainy days. In Paris and London, the people treated museums as places of learning and interest, and were generally somewhat knowledgeable about what they were looking at. For example, nearly every museum had a group of schoolchildren touring; they were not rowdy, but actually listened to and absorbed the lectures. I loved this culture shock because it showcased the idea of using free museums as a means of education, for schoolchildren and adults alike. The museums were treated with respect, and the viewers seemed to have actually learned something by the time they left. This cultural difference gave me hope, that fine art can be appreciated and valued even in an age of technology and digital media.

Not coincidentally, Emily just recently changed her major to Studio Art, with a minor in Art History.

Oglethorpe Study Abroad: The Oxford Experience

OxfordCrestStudying abroad is an invaluable experience for young scholars. It allows the opportunity to live and work on your own in another culture, learn from a new perspective, and travel to incredible places. Oglethorpe University has worked to develop a study abroad department that has formed partnerships with universities all over the world. Oglethorpe’s partnership with Oxford University was among one of its most appealing qualities for me, as studying at one of the most prestigious and oldest universities in history was a personal dream of mine. During my three months in England, I not only fulfilled that goal, but changed the course of my academic and professional future.

For most college sophomores the experience might seem daunting: holding hour-long academic discussions with an Oxford professor, reading seven or more books and writing an essay each week, and then receiving feedback and critique. But, this is what is expected of any student who studies at Oxford University. The process is simple, but effective: the student chooses a course of study and the university selects an expert in the field to design and instruct the course in a one-on-one setting called a tutorial.

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The Oxford skyline view from the Oxford Castle tower.

As an Oglethorpe student, this self-motivated curriculum sounded familiar to me. Core classes consist primarily of individual reading of a text, discussing it among my peers and with my professor, and writing an essay to illustrate my perspective. Perhaps this is why my “Media and Politics” tutor, Dr. Tudor Jones, was delighted to hear that I had come from Oglethorpe University; he had taught another student from Oglethorpe before and recalled her proficiency in writing constructively and conceptually sound essays.

Dr. Jones is author of multiple books on British political party policies and philosophies, has been a lecturer at three Oxford colleges, and was the Liberal Democrat candidate for the district of Buckingham in 2001. When I arrived at his flat for our introductory meeting, I expected to spend the next eight weeks learning about the news, journalism, and social media effects on American Politics. During our meeting, however, I decided that his experience in British political campaigning was too valuable to pass up. He convinced me to leap head first into the world of British political marketing.

Christie Pearce resizedOver the course of the next two months I would read more than 20 books and write seven essays focusing on political marketing, a field I did not know existed only a few weeks prior. I became enthralled almost immediately. As a politics and communication double major, a discipline that combined rhetoric, campaigning, interpersonal communication and party platform design seemed to be tailored to my interests. Dr. Jones was impressed with my confidence and natural aptitude for the subject, and helped to convince me that I could potentially have a future in political marketing. I now plan to pursue this avenue in a doctoral program for graduate school.

My study abroad experience quite literally changed my life. This is Oglethorpe’s goal for every student it sends to another country, be it for a few weeks or an entire year. The independence that is gained both academically and in terms of living alone in a new country is a merit of studying abroad that cannot be substituted. Students should not hesitate to speak with Dr. Collins, the director of the study abroad program at Oglethorpe, if they feel motivated; the experience will not disappoint them.

Oxford University (Corpus Christie College) is the alma mater of General James Edward Oglethorpe, the namesake of Oglethorpe University.