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Celebrating 10 Years of Art in the Garden

The merging of cultures expressed in the beauty of a stone basin rough-hewn by Isamu Noguchi himself in We Are the Landscape of All We Know. / Photo by Jonathan Ley

“For centuries, the Japanese have had the extraordinary ability to capture the essence of the world that surrounds them. Through Art in the Garden, Diane is helping us to see Japan in new and different ways.”
— Joseph Krakora, Executive Officer Emeritus, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The ethereal beauty of a translucent, indigo-dyed tea room in the work of Shihoko Fukumoto. / Photo by Jonathan Ley

This year the Garden celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Art in the Garden exhibitions. Under the direction of Diane Durston, Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art, and Education, this program has introduced the work of more than 75 artists representing Japan and its unique artistic tradition. From internationally renowned artists such as Isamu Noguchi, to Living National Treasures such as Kazumi Murose and Tatsuzo Shimaoka, to rising young artists and craftspeople from all parts of the country.

“Having lived in Japan for almost 20 years, I quickly grasped the Garden’s potential to serve as a window to understand Japan,” says Durston. “One of my first projects was to highlight the beauty of the changing seasons in the Garden by launching a series of seasonal art exhibitions that would reflect the intersection of art and nature. By bringing the artists themselves from Japan, I saw that this would also foster the kind of ongoing cultural exchange that inspired the creation of the Garden itself.”

In the Parallel Worlds exhibition, the indigenous peoples of Japan and North America came together in a celebration of their traditional weaving. / Photo by Jonathan Ley
Glass in the Garden stirred controversy and engaged members in a lively discussion of whether the Garden should be considered a work of art complete in itself—or that it can be a place to discover new meanings through contemporary art that springs from the same artistic source—Japan. / Photo by Jonathan Ley

Over the past ten years, these exhibitions have brought new audiences to the Garden by providing visitors—rain or shine—with the opportunity to experience the arts of Japan in a tranquil natural setting, and learn more about the aesthetics and spirit of the Garden itself.

Jeff Jahn, art curator and editor of said the Garden’s Hanakago exhibition was “one of the strongest exhibitions [he had] ever seen in Portland and a revelation that it comes from the collection from one of its residents.”

According to Robert Singer, Curator of Japanese Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Portland Japanese Garden International Advisory Board Member, Durston’s Art in the Garden series constitutes “… the finest and most consistent range of jewel-like exhibitions on Japanese art and culture anywhere in North America over the past ten years.”

Shokunin: Five Kyoto Artisans Look to the Future / Photo by Jonathan Ley

In 2018, Art in the Garden began to explore the art and culture of the many distinctive geographic regions of Japan. This is the “Year of Kyoto,” and with the help of Co-Curator Sachiko Matsuyama, Diane brought five of that city’s finest young artisans to Portland in the current exhibition Shokunin: Five Kyoto Artisans Look to the Future on view in the Pavilion and Tanabe Galleries through July 8. This exhibition brings Art in the Garden full circle and sets the tone for future decades of exploring the vast wealth of art and culture that is Japan.