Search Results for "asian american"

Smithsonian Digitizes & Lets You Download 40,000 Works of Asian and American Art

Freer 1

Art lovers who vis­it my home­town of Wash­ing­ton, DC have an almost embar­rass­ing wealth of oppor­tu­ni­ties to view art col­lec­tions clas­si­cal, Baroque, Renais­sance, mod­ern, post­mod­ern, and oth­er­wise through the Smith­son­ian’s net­work of muse­ums. From the East and West Wings of the Nation­al Gallery, to the Hir­sh­horn, with its won­drous sculp­ture gar­den, to the Amer­i­can Art Muse­um and Ren­wick Gallery—I’ll admit, it can be a lit­tle over­whelm­ing, and far too much to take in dur­ing a week­end jaunt, espe­cial­ly if you’ve got rest­less fam­i­ly in tow. (One can’t, after all, miss the Nat­ur­al His­to­ry or Air and Space Muse­ums… or, you know… those mon­u­ments.)

Freer 2

In all the bus­tle of a DC vaca­tion, how­ev­er, one col­lec­tion tends to get over­looked, and it is one of my per­son­al favorites—the Freer and Sack­ler Gal­leries, which house the Smithsonian’s unique col­lec­tion of Asian art, includ­ing the James McNeill Whistler-dec­o­rat­ed Pea­cock Room. (See his “Har­mo­ny in Blue and Gold” above.)

Stand­ing in this re-cre­ation of muse­um founder Charles Freer’s per­son­al 19th cen­tu­ry gallery—which he had relo­cat­ed from Lon­don to his Detroit man­sion in 1904—is an aes­thet­ic expe­ri­ence like no oth­er. And like most such expe­ri­ences, there real­ly is no vir­tu­al equiv­a­lent. Nonethe­less, should you have to hus­tle past the Freer and Sack­ler col­lec­tions on your DC vaca­tion, or should you be unable to vis­it the nation’s cap­i­tal at all, you can still get a taste of the beau­ti­ful works of art these build­ings con­tain.

Freer 3

Like many major muse­ums all over the world—including the Nation­al Gallery, the Rijksmu­se­um, The British Library, and over 200 oth­ers—the Freer/Sackler has made its col­lec­tion, all of it, avail­able to view online. You can also down­load much of it.

See del­i­cate 16th cen­tu­ry Iran­ian water­col­ors like “Woman with a spray of flow­ers” (top), pow­er­ful Edo peri­od Japan­ese ink on paper draw­ings like “Thun­der god” (above), and aston­ish­ing­ly intri­cate 15th cen­tu­ry Tibetan designs like the “Four Man­dala Vajravali Thang­ka” (below). And so, so much more.

As Freer/Sackler direc­tor Julian Raby describes the ini­tia­tive, “We strive to pro­mote the love and study of Asian art, and the best way we can do so is to free our unmatched resources for inspi­ra­tion, appre­ci­a­tion, aca­d­e­m­ic study, and artis­tic cre­ation.” There are, writes the gal­leries’ web­site, Ben­to, “thou­sands of works now ready for you to down­load, mod­i­fy, and share for non­com­mer­cial pur­pos­es.” More than 40,000, to be fair­ly pre­cise.

Freer 4

You can browse the col­lec­tion to your heart’s con­tent by “object type,” top­ic, name, place, date, or “on view.” Or you can con­duct tar­get­ed search­es for spe­cif­ic items. In addi­tion to cen­turies of art from all over the far and near East, the col­lec­tion includes a good deal of 19th cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can art, like the sketch of Whistler’s moth­er, below, per­haps a prepara­to­ry draw­ing for his most famous paint­ing. Though I do rec­om­mend that you vis­it these exquis­ite gal­leries in per­son if you can, you must at least take in their col­lec­tions via this gen­er­ous online col­lec­tion and its boun­ty of inter­na­tion­al artis­tic trea­sures. Get start­ed today.

Whistler 1

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 35,000 Works of Art from the Nation­al Gallery, Includ­ing Mas­ter­pieces by Van Gogh, Gau­guin, Rem­brandt & More

40,000 Art­works from 250 Muse­ums, Now View­able for Free at the Redesigned Google Art Project

Rijksmu­se­um Dig­i­tizes & Makes Free Online 210,000 Works of Art, Mas­ter­pieces Includ­ed!

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness


Grandma Moses Started Painting Seriously at Age 77, and Soon Became a Famous American Artist

As an artis­tic child grow­ing up on a farm in the 1860s and ear­ly 1870s, Anna Mary Robert­son (1860–1961) used ground ochre, grass, and berry juice in place of tra­di­tion­al art sup­plies. She was so lit­tle, she referred to her efforts as “lamb­scapes.” Her father, for whom paint­ing was also a hob­by, kept her and her broth­ers sup­plied with paper:

He liked to see us draw pic­tures, it was a pen­ny a sheet and last­ed longer than can­dy.

She left home and school at 12, serv­ing as a full-time, live-in house­keep­er for the next 15 years. She so admired the Cur­ri­er & Ives prints hang­ing in one of the homes where she worked that her employ­ers set her up with wax crayons and chalk, but her duties left lit­tle time for leisure activ­i­ties.

Free time was in even short­er sup­ply after she mar­ried and gave birth to ten chil­dren — five of whom sur­vived past infan­cy. Her cre­ative impulse was con­fined to dec­o­rat­ing house­hold items, quilt­ing, and embroi­der­ing gifts for fam­i­ly and friends.

At the age of 77 (cir­ca 1937), wid­owed, retired, and suf­fer­ing from arthri­tis that kept her from her accus­tomed house­hold tasks, she again turned to paint­ing.

Set­ting up in her bed­room, she worked in oils on masonite prepped with three coats of white paint, draw­ing on such youth­ful mem­o­ries as quilt­ing bees, hay­ing, and the annu­al maple sug­ar har­vest for sub­ject mat­ter, again and again.

Thomas’ Phar­ma­cy in Hoosick Falls, New York exhib­it­ed some of her out­put, along­side oth­er local wom­en’s hand­i­crafts. It failed to attract much atten­tion, until art col­lec­tor Louis J. Cal­dor wan­dered in dur­ing a brief sojourn from Man­hat­tan and acquired them all for an aver­age price tag of $4.

The next year (1939), Mrs. Moses, as she was then known, was one of sev­er­al “house­wives” whose work was includ­ed in the Muse­um of Mod­ern Art’s exhib­it “Con­tem­po­rary Unknown Amer­i­can Painters”.  The empha­sis was def­i­nite­ly on the untaught out­sider. In addi­tion to occu­pa­tion, the cat­a­logue list­ed the non-Cau­casian artists’ race…

In short order, Anna Mary Robert­son Moses had a solo exhi­bi­tion in the same gallery that would give Gus­tav Klimt and Egon Schiele their first Amer­i­can one-per­son shows, Otto Kallir’s Galerie St. Eti­enne.

In review­ing the 1940 show, the New York Her­ald Tri­bune’s crit­ic cit­ed the folksy nick­name (“Grand­ma Moses”) favored by some of the artist’s neigh­bors. Her whole­some rur­al bonafides cre­at­ed an unex­pect­ed sen­sa­tion. The pub­lic flocked to see a table set with her home­made cakes, rolls, bread and prize-win­ning pre­serves as part of a Thanks­giv­ing-themed meet-and-greet with the artist at Gim­bels Depart­ment Store the fol­low­ing month.

As crit­ic and inde­pen­dent cura­tor Judith Stein observes in her essay “The White Haired Girl: A Fem­i­nist Read­ing”:

In gen­er­al, the New York press dis­tanced the artist from her cre­ative iden­ti­ty. They com­man­deered her from the art world, fash­ion­ing a rich pub­lic image that brimmed with human interest…Although the artist’s fam­i­ly and friends addressed her as “Moth­er Moses” and “Grand­ma Moses” inter­change­ably, the press pre­ferred the more famil­iar and endear­ing form of address. And “Grand­ma” she became, in near­ly all sub­se­quent pub­lished ref­er­ences. Only a few pub­li­ca­tions by-passed the new locu­tion: a New York Times Mag­a­zine fea­ture of April 6, 1941; a Harper’s Bazaar arti­cle; and the land­mark They Taught Them­selves: Amer­i­can Prim­i­tive Painters of the 20th Cen­tu­ry, by the respect­ed deal­er and cura­tor Sid­ney Janis, referred to the artist as “Moth­er Moses,” a title that con­veyed more dig­ni­ty than the col­lo­qui­al diminu­tive “Grand­ma.”

But “Grand­ma Moses” had tak­en hold. The avalanche of press cov­er­age that fol­lowed had lit­tle to do with the pro­bity of art com­men­tary. Jour­nal­ists found that the artist’s life made bet­ter copy than her art. For exam­ple, in a dis­cus­sion of her debut, an Art Digest reporter gave a charm­ing, if sim­pli­fied, account of the gen­e­sis of Moses’ turn to paint­ing, recount­ing her desire to give the post­man “a nice lit­tle Christ­mas gift.” Not only would the dear fel­low appre­ci­ate a paint­ing, con­clud­ed Grand­ma, but “it was eas­i­er to make than to bake a cake over a hot stove.” After quot­ing from Genauer and oth­er favor­able reviews in the New York papers, the report con­clud­ed with a folksy sup­po­si­tion: “To all of which Grand­ma Moses per­haps shakes a bewil­dered head and repeats, ‘Land’s Sakes’.” Flip­pant­ly deem­ing the artist’s achieve­ments a mark­er of social change, he not­ed: “When Grand­ma takes it up then we can be sure that art, like the bobbed head, is here to stay.”

Urban sophis­ti­cates were besot­ted with the plain­spo­ken, octo­ge­nar­i­an farm wid­ow who was scan­dal­ized by the “extor­tion prices” they paid for her work in the Galerie St. Eti­enne. As Tom Arthur writes in a blog devot­ed to New York State his­tor­i­cal mark­ers:

New York­ers found that, once wartime gaso­line rationing end­ed, Eagle Bridge made a nice excur­sion des­ti­na­tion for a week­end trip. Local res­i­dents were usu­al­ly will­ing to talk to out­siders about their local celebri­ty and give direc­tions to her farm. There they would meet the artist, who was a delight to talk to, and either buy or order paint­ings from her. Songwriter/impresario Cole Porter became a reg­u­lar cus­tomer, order­ing sev­er­al paint­ings every year to give to friends around Christ­mas. 

In the two-and‑a half decades between pick­ing her paint­brush back up and her death at the age of 101, she pro­duced over 1600 images, always start­ing with the sky and mov­ing down­ward to depict tidy fields, well kept hous­es, and tiny, hard work­ing fig­ures com­ing togeth­er as a com­mu­ni­ty. In the above doc­u­men­tary she alludes to oth­er artists known to depict­ing “trou­ble”… such as live­stock bust­ing out of their enclo­sures.

She pre­ferred to doc­u­ment scenes in which every­one was seen to be behav­ing.

Remark­ably, MoMA exhib­it­ed Grand­ma Moses’ work at the same time as Picasso’s Guer­ni­ca.

In a land and in a life where a woman can grow old with fear­less­ness and beau­ty, it is not strange that she should become an artist at the end. — poet Archibald MacLeish


Read Judith Stein’s fas­ci­nat­ing essay in its entire­ty here.

See more of Grand­ma Moses’ work here, and her por­trait on TIME mag­a­zine in 1953.

Relat­ed Con­tent

How Leo Tol­stoy Learned to Ride a Bike at 67, and Oth­er Tales of Life­long Learn­ing

The Long Game of Cre­ativ­i­ty: If You Haven’t Cre­at­ed a Mas­ter­piece at 30, You’re Not a Fail­ure

What Does It Take to Be a Great Artist?: An Aging Painter Reflects on His Cre­ative Process & Why He Will Nev­er Be a Picas­so

Free Art & Art His­to­ry Cours­es

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


Why Dutch & Japanese Cities Are Insanely Well Designed (and American Cities Are Terribly Designed)

Pity the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca: despite its eco­nom­ic, cul­tur­al, and mil­i­tary dom­i­nance of so much of the world, it strug­gles to build cities that mea­sure up with the cap­i­tals of Europe and Asia. The likes of New York, Los Ange­les, and Chica­go offer abun­dant urban life to enjoy, but also equal­ly abun­dant prob­lems. Apart from the crime rates for which Amer­i­can cities have become fair­ly or unfair­ly noto­ri­ous, there’s also the mat­ter of urban design. Sim­ply put, they don’t feel as if they were built very well, which any Amer­i­can will feel after return­ing from a trip to Ams­ter­dam or Tokyo — or after watch­ing the videos on those cities by Dan­ish Youtu­ber OBF.

In Ams­ter­dam, OBF says, “com­muters will use their bikes to get to and enter tran­sit sta­tions, where they sim­ply park their bikes in these enor­mous bike-park­ing garages. Then they’ll trav­el on either a bus, tram, or train to their final des­ti­na­tion, but most of the time, the fastest and most con­ve­nient option is sim­ply tak­ing the bike to the final des­ti­na­tion.”

Near-impos­si­ble to imag­ine in the Unit­ed States, this preva­lence of cycling is a real­i­ty in not just the Dutch cap­i­tal but also in oth­er cities across the coun­try, which boasts 32,000 kilo­me­ters of bike lanes in total. And those count as only one of the infra­struc­tur­al glo­ries cov­ered in OBF’s video “Why the Nether­lands Is Insane­ly Well Designed.”

Tokyo, too, has its fair share of cyclists. When­ev­er I’m over there, I take note of all the well-dressed moms bik­ing their young chil­dren to school in the morn­ing, who cut fig­ures in the stark­est pos­si­ble con­trast to their Amer­i­can equiv­a­lents. But what real­ly under­lies the Japan­ese cap­i­tal’s dis­tinc­tive­ly intense urban­ism, lit­er­al­ly as well as fig­u­ra­tive­ly, is its net­work of sub­way trains. OBF takes the pre­ci­sion-engi­neered effi­cien­cy and the impec­ca­ble main­te­nance of this sys­tem as his main sub­ject in “Why Tokyo Is Insane­ly Well Designed.” But enough about good city design; what accounts for bad city design, espe­cial­ly in a rich coun­try like the U.S.?

OMF has an answer in one word: park­ing. Philadel­phia, for exam­ple, sup­plies its 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple with 2.2 mil­lion park­ing spaces. The con­se­quent defor­ma­tion of the city’s built envi­ron­ment, clear­ly vis­i­ble in aer­i­al footage, both sym­bol­izes and per­pet­u­ates the hege­mo­ny of the auto­mo­bile. That same con­di­tion once afflict­ed the Euro­pean and Asian cities that have since designed their way out of it and then some. While “some peo­ple might think it’s near­ly impos­si­ble to imple­ment these meth­ods into oth­er coun­tries,” says OBF, they “can be repli­cat­ed any place in the world if the peo­ple and lead­er­ship are will­ing to col­lab­o­rate and lis­ten to one anoth­er, and invest in infra­struc­ture that is people‑, environment‑, and future-cen­tered.” As an Amer­i­can liv­ing in a non-Amer­i­can city, I here­by invite him to come have a ride on the Seoul Metro.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Why Pub­lic Tran­sit Sucks in the Unit­ed States: Four Videos Tell the Sto­ry

Ani­ma­tions Visu­al­ize the Evo­lu­tion of Lon­don and New York: From Their Cre­ation to the Present Day

Why Europe Has So Few Sky­scrap­ers

Ani­mat­ed GIFs Show How Sub­way Maps of Berlin, New York, Tokyo & Lon­don Com­pare to the Real Geog­ra­phy of Those Great Cities

Leonar­do da Vin­ci Designs the Ide­al City: See 3D Mod­els of His Rad­i­cal Design

The Utopi­an, Social­ist Designs of Sovi­et Cities

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


The Models for “American Gothic” Pose in Front of the Iconic Painting (1942)

Grant Wood’s “Amer­i­can Goth­ic” now hangs at the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go. And on the muse­um’s web­site you’ll find a lit­tle back­ground infor­ma­tion intro­duc­ing you to the icon­ic 1930 paint­ing:

The impe­tus for the paint­ing came while Wood was vis­it­ing the small town of Eldon in his native Iowa. There he spot­ted a lit­tle wood farm­house, with a sin­gle over­sized win­dow, made in a style called Car­pen­ter Goth­ic. [See it here.] “I imag­ined Amer­i­can Goth­ic peo­ple with their faces stretched out long to go with this Amer­i­can Goth­ic house,” he said. He used his sis­ter and his den­tist as mod­els for a farmer and his daugh­ter, dress­ing them as if they were “tin­types from my old fam­i­ly album.” The high­ly detailed, pol­ished style and the rigid frontal­i­ty of the two fig­ures were inspired by Flem­ish Renais­sance art, which Wood stud­ied dur­ing his trav­els to Europe between 1920 and 1926. After return­ing to set­tle in Iowa, he became increas­ing­ly appre­cia­tive of mid­west­ern tra­di­tions and cul­ture, which he cel­e­brat­ed in works such as this. Amer­i­can Goth­ic, often under­stood as a satir­i­cal com­ment on the mid­west­ern char­ac­ter, quick­ly became one of America’s most famous paint­ings and is now firm­ly entrenched in the nation’s pop­u­lar cul­ture. Yet Wood intend­ed it to be a pos­i­tive state­ment about rur­al Amer­i­can val­ues, an image of reas­sur­ance at a time of great dis­lo­ca­tion and dis­il­lu­sion­ment. The man and woman, in their sol­id and well-craft­ed world, with all their strengths and weak­ness­es, rep­re­sent sur­vivors.

Above, you can see Wood’s sis­ter and dentist–otherwise known as Nan Wood Gra­ham and Dr. B.H. McKeeby–posing in front of “Amer­i­can Goth­ic” in 1942. That’s when the paint­ing first went on dis­play in its home­town, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s a fair­ly meta moment. Gra­ham and McK­ee­by look down­right dour in the pic­ture, just as in the paint­ing.

Grant Wood died of pan­cre­at­ic can­cer in ’42, and his sis­ter even­tu­al­ly moved to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where she became the care­tak­er of his lega­cy. She did, after all, owe him a debt. “Grant made a per­son­al­i­ty out of me,” she said. “I would have had a very drab life with­out [Amer­i­can Goth­ic].”

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Art­sy/Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“The Artist Project” Reveals What 127 Influ­en­tial Artists See When They Look at Art: An Acclaimed Video Series from The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

Whit­ney Muse­um Puts Online 21,000 Works of Amer­i­can Art, By 3,000 Artists

Smith­son­ian Dig­i­tizes & Lets You Down­load 40,000 Works of Asian and Amer­i­can Art


Alan Watts Brings Eastern Wisdom to American TV Viewers in 1959 (Complete Episodes)

Near­ly forty years after his death, the words of Alan Watts still gen­er­ate excite­ment. Fans trade them, in the form of texts, radio broad­casts, record­ed talks, and tele­vi­sion pro­grams, both online and off. The British-born inter­preter and pop­u­lar­iz­er of East Asian Bud­dhist thought gen­er­at­ed most of his media in the San Fran­cis­co of the 1950s and 1960s, and his tele­vised lec­tures, pro­duced for local pub­lic sta­tion KQED, must have offered many a San Fran­cis­can their very first glimpse of Zen. Now that episodes of his series East­ern Wis­dom and Mod­ern Life have made it to YouTube (sea­son one, sea­son two), you can see for your­self that Watts’ then-cut­ting-edge deliv­ery of this ancient wis­dom remains enter­tain­ing, infor­ma­tive, and strik­ing in its clar­i­ty. Begin with the intro­duc­to­ry episode above and below, “Man and Nature,” in which Watts calm­ly lays out his obser­va­tions of the ill effects of West­ern­ers’ hav­ing grown to dis­trust their human instincts.

We waste our ener­gy fight­ing nature, rather than work­ing with it; we com­pul­sive­ly chat­ter to our­selves when we should let new things into our minds; we pur­sue plea­sure, for­get­ting that we can’t rec­og­nize it in the absence of pain; we divide real­i­ty into minis­cule chunks to make sci­ence and engi­neer­ing pos­si­ble, but then get unfor­tu­nate­ly locked into that mode of think­ing. These are some of the many dis­ad­van­ta­geous habits Watts points out over the course of these lec­tures. But he also tells sto­ries, cracks dry jokes, and takes advan­tage of the visu­al medi­um with illus­tra­tions from East­ern art, aes­thet­ics, and even lan­guage. When­ev­er I feel I’ve lapsed into the vac­il­lat­ing, inef­fec­tu­al psy­cho­log­i­cal state he called “the quak­ing mess” — and it hap­pens often — I call up a shot of Watts with broad­casts like these, and I’m back liv­ing in real­i­ty in no time.

You can watch oth­er episodes of East­ern Wis­dom and Mod­ern Thought via this Youtube playlist.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Alan Watts On Why Our Minds And Tech­nol­o­gy Can’t Grasp Real­i­ty

Alan Watts and His Zen Wis­dom Ani­mat­ed by the Cre­ators of South Park

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.


An Introduction to Chinoiserie: When European Monarchs Tried to Build Chinese Palaces, Houses & Pavilions

Today it would be viewed as cul­tur­al appro­pri­a­tion writ large, but when Louis XIV ordered the con­struc­tion of a 5‑building plea­sure pavil­ion inspired by the Porce­lain Tow­er of Nan­jing (a 7th Won­der of the World few French cit­i­zens had viewed in per­son) as an escape from Ver­sailles, and an exot­ic love nest in which to romp with the Mar­quise de Mon­tes­pan, he ignit­ed a craze that spread through­out the West.

Chi­nois­erie was an aris­to­crat­ic Euro­pean fan­ta­sy of lux­u­ri­ous East­ern design, what Dung Ngo, founder of AUGUST: A Jour­nal of Trav­el + Design, describes as “a West­ern thing that has noth­ing to do with actu­al Asian cul­ture:”

Chi­nois­erie is a lit­tle bit like chop suey. It was whole­sale invent­ed in the West, based on cer­tain per­cep­tions of Asian cul­ture at the time. It’s very watered down.

And also way over the top, to judge by the rap­tur­ous descrip­tions of the inte­ri­ors and gar­dens of Louis XIV’s Tri­anon de Porce­laine, which stood for less than 20 years.

Image by Hervé Gre­goire, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

The blue-and-white Delft tiles meant to mim­ic Chi­nese porce­lain swift­ly fell into dis­re­pair and Madame de Montespan’s suc­ces­sor, her children’s for­mer gov­erness, the Mar­quise de Main­tenon, urged Louis to tear the place down because it was “too cold.”

Her lover did as request­ed, but else­where, the West’s imag­i­na­tion had been cap­tured in a big way.

The bur­geon­ing tea trade between Chi­na and the West pro­vid­ed access to Chi­nese porce­lain, tex­tiles, fur­nish­ings, and lac­quer­ware, inspir­ing West­ern imi­ta­tions that blur the bound­aries between Chi­nois­erie and Roco­co styles

This blend is in evi­dence in Fred­er­ick the Great’s Chi­nese House in the gar­dens of Sanssouci (below).

Image by Johann H. Addicks, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Dr Samuel Wit­twer, Direc­tor of Palaces and Col­lec­tions at the Pruss­ian Palaces and Gar­dens Foun­da­tion, describes how the gild­ed fig­ure atop the roof “is a mix­ture of the Greek God Her­mes and the Chi­nese philoso­pher Con­fu­cius:”

His Euro­pean face is more than just a sym­bol of intel­lec­tu­al union between Asia and Europe…The fig­ure on the roof has an umbrel­la, an Asian sym­bol of social dig­ni­ty, which he holds in an east­ern direc­tion. So the famous ex ori­ente lux, the good and wise Con­fu­cian light from the far east, is blocked by the umbrel­la. Fur­ther down, we notice that the foun­da­tions of the build­ing seem to be made of feath­ers and the Chi­nese heads over the win­dows, rest­ing on cush­ions like tro­phies, turn into a mon­key band in the inte­ri­or. The fres­coes in the cupo­la main­ly depict mon­keys and par­rots. As we know, these par­tic­u­lar ani­mals are great imi­ta­tors with­out under­stand­ing.

Frederick’s enthu­si­asm for chi­nois­erie led him to engage archi­tect Carl von Gontard to fol­low up the Chi­nese House with a pago­da-shaped struc­ture he named the Drag­on House (below) after the six­teen crea­tures adorn­ing its roof.

Image by Rig­o­rius, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Drag­ons also dec­o­rate the roof of the Great Pago­da in London’s Kew Gar­dens, though the gild­ed wood­en orig­i­nals either suc­cumbed to the ele­ments or were sold off to set­tle George IV’s gam­bling debts in the late 18th cen­tu­ry.

Image by MX Granger, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

There are even more drag­ons to be found on the Chi­nese Pavil­ion at Drot­tning­holm, Swe­den, an archi­tec­tur­al con­fec­tion con­struct­ed by King Adolf Fredrik as a birth­day sur­prise for his queen, Louisa. The queen was met by the entire court, cos­play­ing in Chi­nese (or more like­ly, Chi­nese-inspired) gar­ments.

Not to be out­done, Russia’s Cather­ine the Great resolved to “cap­ture by caprice” by build­ing a Chi­nese Vil­lage out­side of St. Peters­burg.

Image by Макс Вальтер, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Archi­tect Charles Cameron drew up plans for a series of pavil­ions sur­round­ing a nev­er-real­ized octag­o­nal-domed obser­va­to­ry. Instead, eight few­er pavil­ions than Cameron orig­i­nal­ly envi­sioned sur­round a pago­da based on one in Kew Gar­dens.

Hav­ing sur­vived the Nazi occu­pa­tion and the Sovi­et era, the Chi­nese Vil­lage is once again a fan­ta­sy play­thing for the wealthy. A St. Peters­burg real estate devel­op­er mod­ern­ized one of the pavil­ions to serve as a two-bed­room “week­end cot­tage.”

Giv­en that no record of the orig­i­nal inte­ri­ors exists, design­er Kir­ill Istomin wasn’t ham­strung by a man­date to stick close to his­to­ry, but he and his client still went with “numer­ous chi­nois­erie touch­es” as per a fea­ture in Elle Decor:

Pan­els of antique wall­pa­pers were framed in gild­ed bam­boo for the mas­ter bed­room, and vin­tage Chi­nese lanterns, pur­chased in Paris, hang in the din­ing and liv­ing rooms. The star pieces, how­ev­er, are a set of 18th-cen­tu­ry porce­lain teapots, which came from the estate of the late New York socialite and phil­an­thropist Brooke Astor.

Explore cul­tur­al crit­ic Aileen Kwun and the Asian Amer­i­can Pacif­ic Islander Design Alliance’s per­spec­tive on the still pop­u­lar design trend of chi­nois­erie here.

h/t Allie C!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

An Ani­mat­ed His­to­ry of Ver­sailles: Six Min­utes of Ani­ma­tion Show the Con­struc­tion of the Grand Palace Over 400 Years

How the Ornate Tapes­tries from the Age of Louis XIV Were Made (and Are Still Made Today)

Down­load Vin­cent van Gogh’s Col­lec­tion of 500 Japan­ese Prints, Which Inspired Him to Cre­ate “the Art of the Future”

Free: Down­load 70,000+ High-Res­o­lu­tion Images of Chi­nese Art from Taipei’s Nation­al Palace Muse­um

– Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo and Cre­ative, Not Famous Activ­i­ty Book. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


Kickstarter: the Future of Self-Publishing?

We all know where books come from: a human and a muse meet, fall in love, and two months to twen­ty years lat­er, a book is born. Then, as with oth­er vari­eties of babies, the sleep­less nights start as a writer search­es for a home for the book, col­lect­ing rejec­tions like badges of hon­or, tes­ta­ments to deter­mi­na­tion.

Well, that was the old-fash­ioned way. We’ve all heard how the inter­net has lev­eled the play­ing field, allow­ing any­body to pub­lish work and find an audi­ence. How­ev­er, this eas­i­er path to pub­li­ca­tion hasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly solved an even old­er writer’s conun­drum: How to pay for it.

That is, how to make enough mon­ey to sus­tain your­self as you write (day jobs aside). And so writ­ers must become even wil­i­er. Though you may make mon­ey from the sale of a book, how do you fund your­self before the book?

Seth Har­wood, the author of three books, is at the front of the move­ment to find alter­nate and cre­ative ways of not only reach­ing audi­ences, but pur­su­ing the writ­ing life. Since grad­u­at­ing from the Iowa Writ­ers Work­shop in 2002, Har­wood has built up a loy­al fan base—his “Palms Mamas and Palms Dad­dies” (named for one of his pro­tag­o­nists, Jack Palms)—through social media and free pod­cast­ing. Har­wood is sus­tain­ing a writ­ing life along a path that is like­ly to be more and more com­mon for writ­ers.

After offer­ing his first nov­el, Jack Wakes Up, as a free audio­book, Har­wood pub­lished it in paper­back with Break­neck Books in 2008. The Ama­zon sales, pushed by Palms Mamas and Palms Dad­dies, land­ed the book in #1 in Crime/Mystery and #45 over­all, bring­ing the atten­tion of Ran­dom House, who re-pub­lished the book one year lat­er.

Look­ing out­side main­stream avenues, Har­wood secured fund­ing for pub­li­ca­tion of his next ven­ture, Young Junius, with Tyrus Books by pre­selling signed copies through Paypal—before the books exist­ed in phys­i­cal form. And now he is one of the ear­ly adopters of using Kick­starter to pay for the ges­ta­tion and birth of not one book—but five pre­vi­ous­ly-writ­ten works in the next six months–as he puts it, “rais­ing the fixed costs of bring­ing these books to the mar­ket­place.” His Kick­starter cam­paign based around This Is Life, the sequel to Jack Wakes Up was—impressively—fully fund­ed with­in 25 hours—and with a few days still left to go, it has exceed­ed the orig­i­nal goal by over $2000.

What can a writer offer besides an auto­graphed copy of the to-be-writ­ten book, or a men­tion in the acknowl­edge­ments? For Harwood’s project, the pledges range from a dol­lar to $999, with thank-yous span­ning from the afore­men­tioned to—at the $999 end—an orig­i­nal novel­la writ­ten accord­ing to the donor’s wish­es and pub­lished as a one-off hard­cov­er.

As more and more writ­ers become cyn­i­cal about the main­stream pub­lish­ing indus­try, and the lim­its it places on writ­ers, and as the inter­net breaks down bar­ri­ers between writ­ers and read­ers, alter­nate paths of draw­ing audi­ences to the writing/publishing process may become more and more pop­u­lar. In none oth­er than the New York Times Book Review, Neal Pol­lack recent­ly declared his inten­tion to self-pub­lish his next book using Kick­starter to gen­er­ate his fixed costs and “an advance,” and last week best­seller Paulo Coel­ho dis­cussed his deci­sion to offer his nov­els for free online. (You can find free ebooks by Coel­ho here.)

Indeed, now more than ever, it seems essen­tial for authors to meet read­ers at least half-way. Har­wood con­sid­ers him­self an “author-pre­neur,” devel­op­ing new busi­ness mod­els as he pub­lish­es his books. As he sees it, inno­va­tion comes much more eas­i­ly to an author act­ing alone, than to a large pub­lish­ing com­pa­ny or big cor­po­ra­tion. He aims for the new mod­els as he sees them devel­op­ing, know­ing he’s got to go out and find read­ers him­self. As Coel­ho declares, “The ivory tow­er does not exist any­more.”

This post was con­tributed by Shaw­na Yang Ryan. Her nov­el Water Ghosts was a final­ist for the 2010 Asian Amer­i­can Lit­er­ary Award. In 2012, she will be the Dis­tin­guished Writer in Res­i­dence at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawai’i at Manoa.


Behold the Unique Beauty of Japan’s Artistic Manhole Covers

Vis­i­tors to Japan can’t help but be struck by the beau­ty of its tem­ples, its scenic views, its zen gar­dens, its man­hole cov­ers

You read that right.

What start­ed as a scheme to get tax­pay­ers on board with pricey rur­al sew­er projects in the 1980s has grown into a coun­try­wide tourist attrac­tion and a mat­ter of civic pride.

Each munic­i­pal­i­ty boasts its own unique man­hole cov­er designs, inspired by spe­cif­ic region­al ele­ments.

A com­mu­ni­ty might opt to rep its local flo­ral or fau­na, a famous local land­mark or fes­ti­val, an his­toric event or bit of folk­lore.

Mat­sumo­to City high­lights one of its pop­u­lar folk craft sou­venirs, the col­or­ful silk temari balls that once served as toys for female chil­dren and bridal gifts.

Nagoya touts the puri­ty of its water with a water strid­er — an insect that requires the most pris­tine con­di­tions to sur­vive.

Hiroshi­ma pays trib­ute to its base­ball team.

Osa­ka offers a view of its cas­tle sur­round­ed by cher­ry blos­soms.

The prox­im­i­ty of the San­rio Puroland theme park allows Tama City to lay claim to Hel­lo Kit­ty and Poké­mon-themed lids have sprung up like mush­rooms from Tokyo to Oki­nawa.

Most of Japan’s 15 mil­lion artis­tic man­hole cov­ers are mono­chro­mat­ic steel which makes spot­ting one of the vibrant­ly col­ored mod­els even more excit­ing.

In the fifty some years since their intro­duc­tion, an entire sub­cul­ture has emerged. Vet­er­an enthu­si­ast Sho­ji Mori­mo­to coined the term “man­holer” to describe hob­by­ists par­tic­i­pat­ing in this “trea­sure hunt for adults.”

Remo Camero­ta doc­u­ments his obses­sion in Drainspot­ting: Japan­ese Man­hole Cov­ers and Amer­i­can trav­el­er Car­rie McN­inch shares the joy of stum­bling across pre­vi­ous­ly unspot­ted ones in her auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal com­ic series You Don’t Get There From Here.

The ongo­ing pop­u­lar­i­ty of this offi­cial­ly sanc­tioned street art is evi­denced by the Japan­ese Soci­ety of Man­hole Lovers, an annu­al man­hole sum­mit, and tons of col­lectible trad­ing cards.

Explore a crowd­sourced gallery of Japan­ese man­hole cov­ers here.

via Colos­sal

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Dis­cov­er Edo, the His­toric Green/Sustainable City of Japan

The Mak­ing of Japan­ese Hand­made Paper: A Short Film Doc­u­ments an 800-Year-Old Tra­di­tion

Down­load Clas­sic Japan­ese Wave and Rip­ple Designs: A Go-to Guide for Japan­ese Artists from 1903

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of The East Vil­lage Inky zine and nine books, includ­ing, most recent­ly Cre­ative, Not Famous. Fol­low her @Ayun-Halliday


Why 99% Of Smithsonian’s Specimens Are Hidden In High-Security

Muse­ums are the mem­o­ry of our cul­ture and they’re the mem­o­ry of our plan­et. — Dr. Kirk John­son, Direc­tor, Smith­son­ian Nation­al Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry

For many of us nat­ur­al his­to­ry muse­ums are emblem­at­ic of school field trips, or rainy day out­ings with (or as) chil­dren.

There’s always some­thing to be gleaned from the recon­struct­ed dinosaur skele­tons, daz­zling min­er­als, and 100-year-old spec­i­mens on dis­play.

The edu­ca­tion­al prospects are even greater for research sci­en­tists.

The above entry in Busi­ness Insid­er’s Big Busi­ness series takes us behind the scenes of the Smith­son­ian Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um, a fed­er­al­ly-fund­ed insti­tu­tion where more than 99% of its vast col­lec­tion is housed in the base­ment, on upper floors and employ­ees-only wings of exhi­bi­tion floors, or at an off­site facil­i­ty in neigh­bor­ing Mary­land.

The lat­ter is poised to pro­vide safe space for more of these trea­sures as cli­mate change-relat­ed flood­ing pos­es an increas­ing­ly dire threat. The museum’s Nation­al Mall loca­tion, which draws more than 6 mil­lion vis­i­tors annu­al­ly, is now vir­tu­al­ly at sea lev­el, and Con­gress is mov­ing at a pace for­mer­ly known as glacial to approve the expen­sive but nec­es­sary struc­tur­al improve­ments that would safe­guard these pre­cious col­lec­tions.

The muse­um cur­rent­ly boasts some 147 mil­lion spec­i­mens, and is con­tin­u­al­ly adding more, by means of field col­lec­tions, dona­tions, and pur­chas­es made with endow­ments, though as a non-prof­it insti­tu­tion, it’s rarely able to out­bid deep-pock­et­ed pri­vate col­lec­tors at auc­tions of hot-tick­et items like large dinosaur bones.

The Divi­sion of Birds’ dai­ly mail brings sam­ples of “snarge” — whatever’s left over when a bird makes impact with an air­craft.

Upon arrival at the Smith­son­ian, what­ev­er its size or mar­ket val­ue, every item is sub­ject­ed to a process of inspec­tion known as “acces­sion­ing”.

After that, it is metic­u­lous­ly cleaned.

Bee­tles in an off­site Osteo Prep Lab get to work on resid­ual organ­ic mate­ri­als like skin and tis­sue.

Human experts use a hand­held air scrape tool to incre­men­tal­ly sep­a­rate fos­sils from the rocky matrix in which they were dis­cov­ered

The goal is per­ma­nent stor­age state.

Geo­log­i­cal spec­i­mens are clas­si­fied accord­ing to Dana’s Sys­tem of Min­er­al­o­gy and stored in draw­ers. High-val­ue items are assigned to the Blue Room or the Gem Vault.

Bones that are look­ing to spend the bet­ter part of eter­ni­ty on a shelf are fit­ted for cus­tom fiber­glass and plas­tic cra­dles to pro­tect against pests, mois­ture, and grav­i­ty-relat­ed stress frac­tures.

The Depart­ment of Ento­mol­o­gy dries and pins incom­ing insects, arach­nids, and myr­i­apods, and stores them in hydraulic car­riages.

Mam­mals, rep­tiles, fish and birds are stuffed or pick­led in alco­hol.

Many items in the museum’s col­lec­tion date back to the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry.

These days, staff strive to pre­serve as much as they can, using every tool and sci­en­tif­ic advance­ment at their dis­pos­al. As ornithol­o­gist and feath­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion spe­cial­ist Car­la Dove, states, “It’s our respon­si­bil­i­ty to do as much as we can with the spec­i­men if we’re going to take it from the wild for research.”

These care­ful prepa­ra­tions ensure that the world’s largest nat­ur­al his­to­ry col­lec­tion can con­tin­ue to serve as a liv­ing library for thou­sands of vis­it­ing scientists…climate change per­mit­ting.

Access to the Muse­um of Nat­ur­al History’s col­lec­tions and data­bas­es result in the pub­li­ca­tion of hun­dreds of research papers and the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of hun­dreds of new species every year.

In addi­tion to pro­vid­ing valu­able intel­li­gence for research ini­tia­tives on such top­ics as dis­ease trans­mis­sion, vol­canic activ­i­ty, and of course, the effects of bird strikes on air­planes, muse­um staff is work­ing toward a goal of pre­serv­ing each item with a dig­i­tal scan — 9 mil­lion and count­ing…

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Smith­son­ian Design Muse­um Dig­i­tizes 200,000 Objects, Giv­ing You Access to 3,000 Years of Design Inno­va­tion & His­to­ry

The Smith­son­ian Puts 2.8 Mil­lion High-Res Images Online and Into the Pub­lic Domain

Smith­son­ian Dig­i­tizes & Lets You Down­load 40,000 Works of Asian and Amer­i­can Art

The Smith­son­ian Picks “101 Objects That Made Amer­i­ca”

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


Martin Heidegger Talks Philosophy with a Buddhist Monk on German TV (1963)

Mar­tin Hei­deg­ger is often called the most impor­tant philoso­pher of the 20th cen­tu­ry. I’m not in a posi­tion to eval­u­ate this claim, but his influ­ence on con­tem­po­rary and suc­ces­sive Euro­pean and Amer­i­can thinkers is con­sid­er­able. That influ­ence spread all the way to Thai­land, where Bud­dhist monk and uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Bhikku Maha Mani came to think of Hei­deg­ger as “the Ger­man philoso­pher.” (A con­cep­tion, writes Otto Poggel­er in an essay on Hei­deg­ger and East­ern thought, that may have “per­vert­ed the monk’s want­i­ng to talk” to the philoso­pher, “since phi­los­o­phy nev­er lets itself be embod­ied in an idol.”) The Bud­dhist monk, also a radio pre­sen­ter who lat­er left his order to work for Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion, met the Ger­man philoso­pher in 1963 for an inter­view on Ger­man TV sta­tion SWR. Maha Mani asks his ques­tions in Eng­lish, Hei­deg­ger responds in Ger­man. See the first part of the inter­view above, the sec­ond below.

This was not at all the first time the Ger­man philoso­pher had dia­logued with an East Asian thinker. In a study on the Bud­dhist and Taoist influ­ences on Heidegger’s work, Rein­hold May writes that Heidegger’s “direct con­tact with East Asian thought dates back at least as far as 1922” when he began con­ver­sa­tions with sev­er­al major Japan­ese thinkers. Nonethe­less, Hei­deg­ger appar­ent­ly had lit­tle to say on the cor­re­spon­dences between his ideas and those of East­ern philoso­phers until the 1950s, and the lit­tle that he did say seems mar­gin­al at best to his main body of work.

May’s claims of “hid­den influ­ence” may be high­ly exag­ger­at­ed, yet Hei­deg­ger was famil­iar with Bud­dhist thought, and, in the inter­view, he makes some inter­est­ing dis­tinc­tions and com­par­isons. In answer to the Bhikku’s first, very gen­er­al, ques­tion, Hei­deg­ger launch­es into his famil­iar refrain—“one ques­tion was nev­er asked [in “Occi­den­tal” phi­los­o­phy], that is, the ques­tion of Being.” Hei­deg­ger defines “the human being” as “this essence, that has lan­guage,” in con­trast to “the Bud­dhist teach­ings,” which do not make “an essen­tial dis­tinc­tion, between human beings and oth­er liv­ing things, plants and ani­mals.” For Hei­deg­ger, consciousness—“a know­ing rela­tion to Being” through language—is the exclu­sive pre­serve of humans.

In the sec­ond part of the inter­view (read a tran­script here), Bhikku Maha Mani asks Hei­deg­ger what he thinks about the con­tra­dic­to­ry West­ern ten­den­cy to iden­ti­fy peo­ple with­out reli­gion as “com­mu­nists” and those who live “accord­ing to reli­gious rules” as insane. Hei­deg­ger responds that reli­gion, in its most rad­i­cal sense, sim­ply means “a bond­ing-back to pow­ers, forces and laws, that super­sede human capa­bil­i­ty.” In this respect, he says, “no human being is with­out reli­gion,” whether it be “the belief in sci­ence” of com­mu­nists or “an athe­is­tic reli­gion, name­ly Bud­dhism, that knows no God.” Hei­deg­ger goes on to explain why he sees lit­tle pos­si­bil­i­ty of “imme­di­ate and sim­ple under­stand­ing” between peo­ple of dif­fer­ent reli­gions, philoso­phies, and polit­i­cal groups. While it may be tempt­ing to view Heidegger’s work—and that of oth­er phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal, exis­ten­tial, or skep­ti­cal philosophers—as work­ing in tan­dem with much East­ern thought, as per­haps “the” Ger­man philoso­pher him­self would cau­tion, the dif­fer­ences are sig­nif­i­cant. In the inter­view above, Hei­deg­ger large­ly faults Ger­many and “all of Europe in gen­er­al” for a gen­er­al lack of human har­mo­ny: “We do not have any clear, com­mon and sim­ple rela­tion to real­i­ty and to our­selves,” he says. “That is the big prob­lem of the West­ern world.”

Cours­es on Hei­deg­ger’s phi­los­o­phy can be found in our col­lec­tion of Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es, part of our larg­er col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2014.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Love Let­ters of Han­nah Arendt and Mar­tin Hei­deg­ger

Heidegger’s “Black Note­books” Sug­gest He Was a Seri­ous Anti-Semi­te, Not Just a Naive Nazi

“Hei­deg­ger in the Kitchen”: Alain de Botton’s Video Essay Explains the Philosopher’s Con­cept of Being


Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.