Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Art Museum: Japanese Art (Arts and Leisure)
I went to the Birmingham Museum of Art to see what other cultures view as art and the many different types of art within a culture. I went to see if the art and some of the stories behind it could give me some sort of insight to how the culture functioned. I decided to go to the Japanese Art Exhibit to view its art and to get some kind of an idea what the culture was like. The art that I viewed at in the exhibit was in the time period 1600-1900 and some of the other pieces of art were even older than that. So this is not going to give me much insight into the modern Japanese culture, but it will allow me to see where maybe some of their traditions came from and where the people of today came from their heritage.
There were very few things that I knew about the Japanese culture. I knew that they used to have samurai which were their really good fighters and warriors. I get most of what I know about them from the movie The Last Samurai. In this movie I learned that the Samurai were the protectors of the emperor and were essentially the army of Japan. The samurai were great warriors and very skilled and when they would go to battle they would wear interesting suits of armor. The helmets of the samurai were the most interesting they were faces and sometimes would have horns or something on them it looked like they were made to intimidate the opponents. Other things that I knew about the Japaneses culture was that they were very religious and that they were usually Buddhists.
From the Art Museum I looked at the art that was on display and it was different art than what we as Americans think of as art. I think of art as being paintings, pictures, and sculptures, but this is not really the majority of what the art work was. They had many Samurai uniforms that were on display and these were pretty close to what I was expecting from the movie. The helmets had the horns and antlers like in the movies and the masks were very strange. They looked like they were made to look like some sort of face and some of them even had mustaches. They were not really normal faces but scary faces. This may be because they were trying to intimidate their opponents. The samurai weapons were also on display and it was obvious that the people that made the weapons were very skilled. They not only had the suits of armor, but they had little figurines of Samurai. So from this it is evident that the samurai warrior and the skilled weapon making was a big part of the culture. Another thing that seemed to be a big part of their culture based on the amount of art for it was religion. There were many religious figurines or sculptures in the exhibit. Most of them were some sort of Buddha statue. Others were sculptures of other deities such as Kannon Bosatsu and Jizo Bosatsu. Many of the deities were also shared by other cultures and even other nations. They also had shrine cabinets that contained different deities in them so that they could be worshipped or offerings given to them. To go along with being a very religious people they were superstitious as well. This is evident in the little doll called a Doga which was smashed on purpose in a ceremony where bad luck or illness transferred from to the doll from the person. When it smashed they thought that this would take the bad luck or illness away. They also had many paintings on cabinets or other cloth that just depicted everyday people doing everyday tasks and often some sort of animal was also involved in the painting mainly I saw birds. This tells me that they did not really idolize the rich, but were common people and that they were in tune with nature and cared a lot about nature. The dress of the people were in what looks like a robe to me or some kind of dress. This was both the common dress for both men and women. The women were also not very prominent in the art and this lends itself to mean that they are maybe not thought of as equal to men or less than men.
These very few aspects of the Japanese culture gave me a little bit more of an insight into their culture. This in no way was a holistic approach in finding out about the culture, but it would be a good place to start for someone that would want to really understand the culture. The Japanese culture is definitely different than the culture I live in. One thing is our military is not honored or maybe thought of in such a high regard as the Samurai, and it is definite that their uniforms would not be put in an art museum. The Japanese is more religious than the culture that I come from in that they have all of these statues and figurines that everywhere in their houses. They also have many deities whereas in my culture there is only one God. The idolization of the rich and powerful is very common in my culture and is in direct contrast to what it seemed to be in the Japanese culture. This shows that unlike our culture it is not as much of a materialistic culture. It is also evident that the dress is very much different because they wear robe looking outfits and robes are only worn by some people and it is an outfit for after a shower or something not a normal outfit. The lack of women in the art shows that in this culture the women were considered inferior to the men and this is rarely thought in my culture, but overall the women are viewed more or less equal to men and neither one is inferior to the other. This just shows that my culture and the Japanese cultures are very different, and it is evident enough that it can be picked up just by looking at the type of art they have.