This past weekend, I made it to the Freer Gallery of Art with a friend.  This is one of the less popular museums on the National Mall – making it a great hidden gem.  The museum focuses on art from China, Korea, Japan, Asia, and the near East.  I made a point to time my visit with a tour.  I have found that the tours consistently enhance my experience.  The guides push the audience to make observations and conclusions in a non-threatening environment.  Their presence makes the museum experience much more interactive with an added component of learning.  One of the things I love most about this town are these opportunities to continue learning.  DC is an amazing place.

Some of the highlights of the experience included:

* Japanese Art:  The tour guide pointed out how influences of Chinese Art moved to Japan.  In this series of seasonal screens, the artist always painted Clouds, Evergreen trees, and Mountains.  Here’s an example of how one of the screens looked.  The Clouds symbolize how perceptions change.  The Evergreen trees represent longevity.  And I unfortunately never heard what the Mountains symbolize – however, I would guess they symbolize the grandeur of the Earth.

I also saw these beautiful painted lacquer boxes.  There is a lot of nature and symbolism in these works.  It’s really exciting to learn the layered meanings of the pieces.

* Islamic Art:  The intersection of art and religion resulted in highly stylized writing adorning these works.  (See the outer ring of the bowl.)  Another characteristic is the arabesque pattern – or the wandering vine.  That piece is particularly interesting – since it also reflects the global trade occurring at the time.  The cobalt blue is native to the region, but the artists learned how to fire their pottery to the porcelain white from the Chinese.  I guess the world was only slightly curved back then.

No discussion of Islamic Art would be complete without mentioning geometry and symmetry.  This textile displays this concept perfectly.  When you zoom in, you can see the balance even in the flower bouquets inside of the fans.  Beautifully disciplined.

* South Asian & Himalayan Art:  Here we focused mainly on religious pieces.  Nandi is a piece that would be set outside the temple.  It has the characteristics of an Indian bull – notice the hump!  But what I found most interesting about it is how the bull is resting on a lotus pedestal.  The lotus is a plant that rises out of the mud (and adversity) towards the sky (and purity).  Most of the pieces in the room were all sitting on top of lotus pedestals – pretty neat.

Like other pieces in the museum, this art showcased many different meanings within one piece.  This double berry seed necklace are sacred for the Hindu god Shiva.  And this necklace is made to look like closed jasmine seeds, prompting the viewer to imagine the smell of jasmine.

That’s all for now for the museum round-up.  Many thanks to the Freer Gallery and my tour guide for a great experience.  I can’t wait to see another museum this weekend.