The first impression is the hollow and spacious hall, with a few distinct exhibitions of sculptures and artifacts scattered around, yet surprisingly it created a sense of harmony and was pleasing to the eye. On the rightmost corner, there is a small workshop—The Lab of Arts. There, the tables are occupied with pencils and art pieces arranged in a casual way, with a few dedicated individuals sitting in front of them.
This art museum incorporates a permanent collection of over 100,000 artworks, touching different cultures from over six world regions: Pacific Islands, Africa, India, Mexico, China, Native America, etc. In the galleries and hallways, there is background music and incense for the corresponding theme. If you would step into the gallery of ancient China, the scent of sandalwood would take a soothing lead of your senses and draw you into a quaint world.
One of my favorite pieces comes from the gallery of the Pacific Islands. It is an enlarged, black-and-white photograph hanging on the wall. A New Guinean headhunter dressed in Oceanic style adornments, holding a bow and a quiver of arrows in a firm grip, looking sideways into the camera. Half of his body is concealed amongst the jungle trees, but the photographer Christ Rainier is able to capture the look of this robust headhunter. It is a look of complexity––a look that is capable of wordless communication, a look of primal nature, a look firm enough to easily pierce through the coat of untamed foliage and the dark camera lens, clashing into my eyes and sways my spirit, as a viewer. This phenomenal photograph documents a dynamic view of one of the many headhunters in New Guinea, the cradle for headhunters.
Another one of my favorite exhibitions rests in the gallery of ancient China. It is the Scholar’s Study area, which contains the well-known Four Treasures of the Scholar’s Studio: paper, brush, ink, and inkstone. Throughout Chinese history, the Scholar’s Study has been respected, preserved, and refined. In my own understanding, it represents the abiding attitude of Chinese people toward knowledge and education. Their aspiration for knowledge and education is rooted in blood, and their reverence for even just the idea of knowledge is unparalleled. This exhibition triggers my childhood memory about the discipline of the importance of knowledge, which I have received from parents as well as school since I was a young girl. Aside from the more profound context of the Scholar’s Study, the exhibition itself is an aesthetic view–everything is organized in a peaceful and elegant order. The table set is entirely made of wood and carved into simple and classic lines. The statue of a crane on the side is another significant symbol in Chinese culture. In ancient China, the crane is typically associated with longevity, along with pines. For their delicate and graceful form, the status of the crane in ancient China ranks only second to the phoenix.
The most intriguing thing about the Bowers Museum is its ability to accommodate a profusion of artworks relative to its compact interior size, especially when it encompasses multiple distinctive cultures. Each collection has its own aesthetic style of arrangement, which keeps the eyes of the visitors busy and refreshing. This museum is well suited for a relaxing afternoon walk on the weekends and it is an excellent snapshot into some of the major cultures in the world.
Photo Credits: Chris Rainier and Jiaqi Yin