A Little Background, Please

More on the author

Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 2:24 am

Most days find me at my desk at the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College. Currently I am preparing to travel to China as part of a long-standing faculty exchange between Grinnell and Nanjing University. Faculty from Nanjing come to Grinnell to conduct research and to instruct our students in Chinese language. Faculty from Grinnell travel to Nanjing to conduct research and to teach in their areas of specialty. The exchange is over 20 years old and has forged strong ties between Grinnell and one of the great universities of China. For more on the exchange visit http://www.grinnell.edu/academic/cis/aboutthecenter/nanjing.

While in China, I have two specific goals along with my daily task of acting as a sponge to absorb as much as I can of Chinese art and culture. I will be teaching a course on museum studies in which I will try, in four short weeks, to outline the basic issues and ideas behind American art museums. I originally proposed the course because of the explosion of contemporary Chinese art and a desire to better understand the museum worlds of our two countries. I've since learned through a recent article by Barbara Pollack that the Chinese are building and developing over 1000 new museums, but don't have much infrastructure for staffing and running them. I hope my course can be a tiny contribution to the future of museums in China.

I will also be scouting artists and scholars who may be able to travel to Grinnell in 2011 as part of an exhibition in development. Because Grinnell has a long-standing relationship with China, we've wanted to present a Chinese art exhibition. Our first attempt will be an exhibition curated by Deborah Rudolph of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at  U.C. Berkeley. Her show features the beginnings of commercial printmaking in Ming period China. The artists we hope to bring will enliven the exhibition with demonstrations of traditional paper making, woodblock carving, woodblock printing and book binding. Professor Andrew Hsieh of Grinnell College has done some preliminary work on this project, and I eagerly await my chance to carry it forward.

I will be traveling with my husband, Dr. Donald Doe, a lecturer in Art at Grinnell College.  He will be teaching a course on the history of American landscape painting--a tradition, at 200 years old, just a bit younger than the Chinese landscape tradition, which is over 1000 years old. He's excited to see what kind of dialogue ensues around landscape.

I'm delighted that I will have someone with whom I can compare notes every day and who can help puzzle out all the mysteries that abound in the course of travel. Our first stop will be Hong Kong for a few days, then on to Nanjing.  On to packing!