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Celebrating the curatorial intention of "Contemplate Japan"

Posted on 04/08/2020 at 04:30 PM by Lilah Anderson

“This began with the thought that enemies can become friends and love can live after hate. Friendship can conquer fear. People of all cultures love their families and want to protect them. Art can unite and create a ribbon through all of it.” ~ Marcia Borel, 2020
 


Over the course of two days in January, a team lead by ISU alumna Marcia Borel (’78 family environment) created a large-scale Sogetsu Ikebana sculpture in the Lori A. Jacobson Gallery of the Brunnier Art Museum. Ikebana is an ancient Japanese artform of arranging flowers. There are many schools of practice in ikebana and one of the newest forms is Sogetsu. Founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara, the Sogetsu school promotes the idea that ikebana can be created by anyone, at any time, with anything. This departure from some of the more traditional structure and tenants of ikebana, allows Sogetsu practitioners more freedom to create. Teshigahara said of Sogetsu, “Flowers become human in ikebana.” In Sogetsu the flowers and other materials take on a reflective quality, responding to the space they are created in and the intentions of the creators. The materials can also take on the qualities of a landscape, becoming mountains, wind or water, and in this way offer an examination of the world.


Undulations exemplifies these characteristics. Made entirely from fresh bamboo, the arrangement has a powerful presence, evoking movement and as its title suggests, undulations. It was constructed by the team entirely inside the Brunnier Art Museum because its design reflects and responds to the gallery filled with the sculptures of Karen LaMonte as well as the Contemplate Japan exhibition as a whole. Undulations celebrates and, in my mind, embodies the curatorial intention of the exhibition Contemplate Japan. The exhibition displays traditional Japanese cultural works of art alongside art by American artists that have found inspiration in the Japanese cultural arts, showcasing the deep relationship between the two countries.


Undulations not only represents a very modern form of an ancient Japanese artistic practice but it was created by a team of Americans who study this practice under a Japanese Iemoto. Marcia Borel, an alumna of Iowa State, has studied Sogetsu for many years and she led the team of designers from her Sogetsu study group that included Deborah Dickinson, Marlys Kerr and Margaret Odiorne. Borel writes thoughtfully about her inspirations and intentions behind Undulations. Her statement is below. Although we can only offer images of Undulations at this time, I hope it inspires you to consider the interconnectedness of our world, to contemplate the beauty of nature all around us and welcome the burgeoning blooms of spring. 
 


“This began with the thought that enemies can become friends and love can live after hate. Friendship can conquer fear. People of all cultures love their families and want to protect them. Art can unite and create a ribbon through all of it. This is my ribbon, running through my love for Japan, my love for my father, whose enemy was, at one time, Japan. It represents the goodness I found in both, and the importance of the roads we choose into our futures. 

Undulations could be literal, undulating lines. It could be metaphorical relationships through time; it could be historical—the US and Japan weaving the path from enemies to friends. It could reference the ocean between us and Japan; undulating ocean waves that both divide and join us. It could reference the yet unknown life paths ahead for the students. May you learn forgiveness, find goodness, and be open to other cultures as you create your ribbon in life. And let love win.”  ~ Marcia Borel
 

Undulations, 2020. Bamboo, wire, gold spray paint. Temporary Sogetsu installation designed by Marcia Borel; assisted by her Sogetsu colleagues Deborah Dickinson, Marlys Kerr and Margaret Odiorne. Marcia was also assisted by Jim Borel, Lilah Anderson and John Pohlman. Located in the Contemplate Japan exhibition in the Brunnier Art Museum. Photo by Chris Gannon.

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