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Petterson Museum pays tribute to Japan

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

“The Art of Time: Japan and its Seasons,” opens Friday, February 21 at Pilgrim Place’s Petterson Museum of Intercultural Art, 730 Plymouth Rd., Claremont.

“In Japan, the experience of the seasons is embedded in language, celebrated in national festivals, and codified in art,” read the Petterson’s description of the show. “Over the centuries, the Japanese transformed the passage of time as portrayed by the seasons into artistic aesthetic and metaphor as well as a cultural value. Come discover the symbolism of the seasons and learn the aesthetics of savoring nature at this exhibit ‘The Art of Time: Japan and its Seasons.’”

The show marks the end of Petterson Museum Specialist Kaitlyn Bylard’s tenure. The 28-year-old programmed the exhibit, and also helped spearhead the recent renovation of the facility.

She’s been at the helm of Pilgrim Place’s gem of a museum for two years and is about to complete her PhD in American history at Claremont Graduate University.

And as if that weren’t enough to keep her occupied, she’s getting married April 5, and will likely be moving with her new husband back to her Bay Area home.

“The Art of Time” will include at least 50 pieces, including paintings, kimonos, textiles, and some other outfits that express the seasons, woodblock prints, screens and ceramics.

It also includes one cloisonné piece, a decorative art dating back to 13th century China. The technique involves enamel, glass, or gemstones separated by strips of flattened wire placed edgeways on a metal backing. “So it creates these gorgeous pieces that are very colorful and very intricate,” Ms. Bylard said. “It’s a gorgeous piece.”

The impetus for “The Art of Time” came as a result of her work cataloguing the Petterson’s vast archive—some 11,000 objects—over the past two years.

“I’ve also really enjoyed exploring it, since I’m fairly new to it,” she said. “I noticed we have a huge variety of woodblock prints from Japan. And as I kept going through it I noticed there were a lot that focused on the seasons, and I wanted to know more about that.”

There were particularly striking images of buildings in the snow and people gazing at cherry blossoms. After some research she learned more about how Japanese art has for centuries had a deep aesthetic reverence for the symbolism of time and the passing of the seasons.

“So I really wanted to bring that to the museum and do an exhibit on it,” she said.

Ms. Bylard came away from the process with a newfound respect for the Japanese art tradition.

“I was definitely fascinated by the kimonos,” she said. “We’ll probably have about four on display. The amount of work that goes into the embroidery and the fabric design is just incredible.”

Another component of the show, woodblock prints, were another revelation.

“Just learning how they were constructed was amazing,” she said. “The artist creates the idea, then someone creates the carving to create the woodblock, then someone else does the coloring to make the print itself. It’s a different process than you usually think of when it comes to art. Usually the artist creates the work and that’s what we get, but [the woodblock prints] are a very collaborative process.”

Though Ms. Bylard’s time at the Petterson was relatively short, she did manage to leave her mark.

“I’ve really focused on the conservation, but I’ve also worked really closely with Jennifer Tomes, who does our advertising and publicity, and we’ve been able to do both at the same time,” Ms. Bylard said. “We just finished our renovation last summer, so that gave us a way to talk about our museum again and get it back into the public mind.”

Though she’s worked in other museum settings over the years, she said she will miss her time at the Petterson.

“It’s been so fascinating,” Ms. Bylard said. “I’ve learned about different cultures and tried my best to make the museum more popular and good for future generations; that’s really been my goal.”

Her immediate plans are to get that PhD. After that, she is going to see where her betrothed’s job offers take them—he’s graduating with a degree in clinical psychology from Loma Linda University. The rest will have to wait.

“Right now I’m weighing my options,” Ms. Bylard said. “I would love to teach, so I’m kind of seeing which doors open, whether it’s museums or teaching at the college level.”

“The Art of Time: Japan and its Seasons,” opens Friday, February 21 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Pilgrim Place’s Petterson Museum, 730 Plymouth Rd., Claremont. A public opening reception takes place Sunday, February 23 from 3 to 5 p.m. More info is at www.pettersonmuseum.org or via email to museum@pilgrimplace.org.

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