Since its opening in 1977, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens has invited guests to discover Japanese culture through world-class exhibits and events. This summer, the cultural hub will continue to carry the torch. Although curator and cultural director Tom Gregersen has recently retired, his enduring passion for authentic Japanese cultural experiences lives on through the many showcases being offered in the coming months.
On June 4, the Morikami will unveil two new exhibits, "Wood Be Kindred Spirits: The Kokeshi Dolls of Bob Brokop" and "Tanabata: Japan’s Star Festival—Views of Tanabata in São Paulo" to run through the summer. Both exhibits celebrate the sentiment of love in Japanese culture in different but equally captivating ways.
"Wood Be Kindred Spirits" is a fitting name for the exhibit celebrating the Kokeshi dolls of Bob Brokop. These simple wooden figures with oversized heads originated in the mid-nineteenth century in northern Japan to offer a comforting familiarity to the beholder.
The whimsical and childlike expressions painted on the faces of the kokeshi are said to sooth teething infants and comfort mothers of unborn children, bringing joy in times of pain. The Morikami exhibit will feature one of the largest collections of rare kokeshi in the United States, all handcarved and creatively painted to communicate a playful sense of wonder.
The felicity offered by the kokeshi will extend to the Morikami’s other star attraction, "Tanabata: Japan’s Star Festival—Views of Tanabata in São Paulo, Brazil by Jade Matarazzo." The display celebrates the annual reuniting of the deities Orihima and Hikoboshi, two lovers tragically separated by the Milky Way until the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
Brazilian photographer Jade Matarazzo has artfully captured the celebration of Tanabata in São Paulo, Brazil, home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan. The uniquely blended colors and varied focus of Matarazzo’s lens make the photographs hum with a feeling of timeless excitement, an unending fervor for this celebration of the devotion between two star-crossed lovers.
In addition to the palpable enthusiasm of the subjects in the photographs, the fusion of Brazilian and Japanese culture offers a rich contrast between the old and new generations in São Paulo, Matarazzo says. The photographs in her exhibit allow a glimpse at a unique cultural exchange that instills both excitement and a calm sense of unity.
This exhibition is made possible by the support of West Encounters East a concept and documentary developed by Miami-based art historian and museum trustee Stella Holmes, who has promoted Matarazzo and many other artists in an effort to encourage mutual awareness and tolerance between cultures.