Travel & Culture

Mother’s Day at USC Pacific Asia Museum

This was the first year in a while where I got to spend Mother’s Day with my mom in person. When I was young, I saw my mom as a disciplinarian and party pooper. We butted heads a lot for reasons I cannot remember, so I was never super close to her. Through my road trip, I came to appreciate my parents a lot more, especially my mom, so I wanted to make sure we did something for Mother’s Day.

We never really went to museums as a family, probably because I was not a fan of museums pre-road trip. However, museums are one of the best ways to expand your mind. Also if you know what days and hours to go, they’re pretty cheap or free – which is why we ended up at USC Pacific Asia Museum.

The mission of the museum is to “further intercultural understanding through the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands”. I would say it did its job, although I wish there was more context in what I was learning about from the beginning. For example, in the exhibit described below, I had to figure out kabuki was and why the artist’s work was so unique.

The temporary exhibit was called “Tsuruya Kōkei: Modern Kabuki Prints Revised & Revisited”. Kabuki (歌舞伎) is a classical Japanese dance-drama, best interpreted as “avant-garde theatre”. The history began in 1603 with all-female kabuki troops, but women were quickly shunned from performing by the 1630s and all the roles were played by men. (Sounds similar to back when only men could act in Shakespeare plays, eh?)

Tsuruya Kōkei (弦屋光溪) was a self-taught artist whose method was an adaptation of the traditional ukiyo-e printmaking. Artists of this genre usually worked in teams: an artist would design the print; a carver would cut the woodblocks; a printer would ink and press the woodblocks onto handmade paper; and a publisher would finance and distribute the works. Kōkei did everything himself, and became one of the top printmakers of his time. What I admired about him was that he challenged himself by cutting up the woodblocks to force himself to make new art. I like that spirit: always challenging yourself to be better. In the picture above, the woodblocks that make the frame are the ones that created the art in the frame.

This one wasn’t in the kabuki exhibit; I just really enjoy the painting and caption: McDonald’s Hamburgers Invading Japan.

While we were at the museum, there just so happened to be an ikebana class for Mother’s Day. Ikebana is the Japanese art for flower arrangement. It’s not just grab a bunch of flowers, wrap a ribbon around it, and call it a bouquet. There are actual rules, and this is what we learned:

  1. Choose a subject. This item will be taller than everything else.
  2. Choose an object. This item will be in front of the subject and should be placed at an angle so not everything is perpendicular to the base.
  3. Place whatever you want on the sides. It does not and is highly encouraged not to be symmetrical on both sides. That way, people’s eyes can bounce around different elements in the vase.

My dad, my mom, and I each made one, but by the time we got home (because we went out for lunch and groceries afterwards), the orchids were kind of floppy and had to throw them out. But otherwise, what a wonderful Mother’s Day!

What did you do with your mothers?

xo Juliet

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