NEWARK, NJ– The teapot, that simple serving vessel for one of the world’s most popular beverages, has a glorious past that has historically combined functionality and art. Nowhere is that fact made more obvious than in the latest Newark Museum decorative arts exhibition The Teapot which will remain on view through 2013.
Sixty-six teapots in ceramics and silver, dating from the late 1600s to the present day, have been selected from amongst the hundreds of teapots in the Museum’s permanent collection by Ulysses Grant Dietz, Senior Curator and Curator of the Decorative Arts Collection. “These teapots embrace several hundred years of Western cultural history and demonstrate the endless design possibilities that this complex functional form has offered to inspire designers and craftspeople over the centuries,” Dietz said. “The Teapot is a unique exhibition of decorative art that chronicles history and excites the creative interest in all of us,” said Mary Sue Sweeney Price, Museum Director and CEO. “It also provides visitors with a prime example of the scope of the diverse collections cared for by the Newark Museum for future generations.”
According to Dietz, the teapot originated along with tea drinking, which started in China hundreds of years ago. However, the Chinese did not start using teapots until the early part of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The European fashion for drinking tea began in the middle of the 1600s, at the end of China’s Ming Dynasty. The teapot was, until the end of the 1800s, always functional, however ornamental it may have also been. As the idea of“the object as art” emerged with the Arts & Crafts movement in the late 1800s teapots appeared that were as much works of art as they were usable vessels for serving tea. In the second half of the twentieth century, non-functional teapots emerged as sculptural objects, presenting their creators with the potential for design and content that left utility behind.
One of the stars of Patchwork from Folk Art to Fine Art is a quilt the Newark Museum purchased just last year. It’s an amazing thing – I think the finest example of its kind – and it’s never been exhibited anywhere before. It’s a Victorian album quilt, made in 1867 by the members of a large Monmouth County farming family named Hurley.
Album quilts have always been a favorite of mine, and particularly their New Jersey variations. They are quintessentially sentimental and romantic, and the best album quilts are richly colorful. The Hurley quilt has this all in spades, and it is in miraculously good condition. Of special interest to me is the oversized wreath block at the center. I’ve never seen this design quirk, which takes the space of four blocks and offers a dramatic (if asymmetrical) centerpiece to the quilt. As an added bonus, the signatures that are used to assign each “page” in the album to a specific person are remarkable examples of ornate penwork…not just names, but names surrounded by flowers and scrollwork in India ink. I’ve never seen a New Jersey album quilt with such grandiose signatures.
The quilt came directly from a member of the family, along with a three-ring binder crammed with genealogical and biographical information about the Hurleys, complete with photocopies of daguerreotypes, histories and a wealth of detail. In spite of all this, we’re really not sure why the quilt was made. Our best guess is that it was an engagement gift to one of their daughters, Annie, a year before her marriage.
Every curator dreams of finding treasures that no other museum has. Our Hurley Family Album quilt is one of those great finds.
Patchwork from Folk Art to Fine Art runs through December 31, 2011. To find out more about this exhibition, visit www.newarkmuseum.org.
Many years ago, John MacGregor wrote an excellent book on Westerners in Tibet. Entitled Tibet: A Chronicle of Exploration, it situates the various missionaries, trade representatives, military officers, and others in their very complicated religious, ethnic, social, economic, and political contexts. He begins with the Franciscans and the Jesuits of the 17th and 18th centuries, who fought one another for the honor of converting the Tibetans, but to no avail. The British in India in the late 18th century were intent upon opening up the Himalayas to trade, but they, too, were unsuccessful due to their misunderstanding of the relationships between the Tibetans, Nepalese, Mongolians, and Chinese.
Later, in the 19th century, they used military force to achieve their goals in the famous Younghusband Expedition of 1903. This expedition was conducted largely in response to the intrigues of the Russians and their Mongolian allies. Also in this century, the eccentric orientalist Thomas Manning and the charming priest Evariste-Regis Huc recorded their impressionistic observations of the Tibetans. In this book, MacGregor writes eloquently about all of these characters, and he does so with sophistication and understanding.
Another book to read:
Martin Brauen from the University of Zurich has assembled a remarkable team of contributors to examine the visual history of the Dalai Lamas. Each Dalai Lama is described in detail, usually with a full chapter devoted to his live and thought by a leading scholar. Additional essays cover the tradition of Tibetan reincarnation, the iconography of the Dalai Lamas, their protective deities, and the relationship between the Panchen Lamas and the Dalai Lamas. It is introduced by an interview between the editor and the 14th Dalai Lama. Profusely illustrated, it is a stunning book entitled The Dalai Lamas: A Visual History published in 2005.
To learn more about the Tibet Collection Centennial, visit newarkmuseum.org.
William Peniston, Ph.D. is the Librarian at the Newark Museum.
Avalokiteshvara, or Chenrezig as he is known in Tibetan, is the Buddhist deity who personifies the ideal of compassion. He can be portrayed in several different forms, two of the most popular being as a white deity with either four arms or 1000 arms; the extra arms symbolize his ability to help many beings simultaneously.
The Mandala can be described as being the residence of the respective deities and their retinues. The sand Mandala of Avalokiteshvara was originated from the tantric teachings of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. Although depicted on a flat surface, the Mandala is actually three-dimensional, being a “divine mansion” at the center of which resides Avalokiteshvara, surrounded by the deities of his entourage.
Every aspect of the Mandala has meaning: nothing is arbitrary or superfluous. The four outer walls of the mansion are in five transparent layers, colored as white, yellow, red, green, and blue, representing faith, effort, memory, meditation, and wisdom (these five colors also represent the five dankinis).
The four doorways, one in the center of each of the four walls, represent the Four Immeasurable Thoughts: love, compassion, joy, and equanimity and there are decorated with precious jewels. The lotus flower in the center of the Mandala represent the lotus family, one of the Buddha families that correspond to the five psychophysical components of a human being, and which purify specific impure states of mind; the Lotus family purifies passion into discriminating awareness. The white thousand arms, thousand-eyed Avalokiteshvara is standing in the center of the lotus flower, on a white moon disk.
In the four directions are seated his retinue seated on white full moon disks. The deities arise from the unity of; the wisdom of emptiness and great bliss of the principle deity Avalokiteshvara. Seated on the eastern red petal is the purified aspect of Hatred in the form of a blue deity Akshobhya, on the southern yellow petal is the purified aspect of Misery in the form of a yellow deity Ratnasambhava and likewise, the purified part of Ignorance & Jealousy are represented by the white deity Vairochana at the western and the green deity Amogasiddhi at the northern petal respectively. The central deity Avaloketishvara represents the freedom from attachment.
The four colors in the four directions are the emanated light rays of the four deity retinues. The lotus itself symbolizes the mind of renunciation. To protect the residence from negative conditions, it is surrounded by a Vajra fence, which also symbolizes the continuous teaching of the Vajrayana (Tantric Teaching) by lord Avalokiteshvara. In the outermost part, it is circled with burning flames that radiate with intense light and are not only for protection but also to burn away or to get red of delusion and the darknesses of the ignorance.
In general, the Mandala shows a method of bringing peace and harmony in our world, through genuine practices of the mind of Great Compassion, the Wisdom of Emptiness, and the meditations of Mandala with their respective deities. We can generate the respective qualities as mentioned and thereby bring about a positive change in this world of ours.
For a practitioner who meditateson the Tantra of Avalokiteshvara, one would familiarize oneself with every detail of the Mandala and the deities within it, engaging in repeated exercises based upon visualizing the pure beings and pure environment which symbolized one’s own being and environment in purified, sublime form. Such exercises, carried out within the basic Buddhist framework of developing wisdom and compassion, bring about a profound transformation of the psyche. Just to glimpse the Mandala, however, will create a positive impression on the mind-stream of the observer, who for a moment is in touch with the profound potential for perfect Enlightenment, which exists within the mind of all beings.
At the end of ritual ceremony, the Mandala will be systematically dismantled and the sand powder of the Mandala will be poured into a river or a sea to remind the impermanence of the world. In fact, it serves to enrich the soil and the mineral resources and to eliminate the untimely death, diseases, famine etc.
In conclusion, we dedicate the merits generate in the preparation of this Mandala together with its rituals for the world peace and true happiness of all the sentient beings. May peace prevail on the Earth!!
The information about the sand mandala is provided by the monks of Drepung Gomang Monastery. www.gomang.org
The Drepung Gomang monks will be at the Newark Museum creating this sand mandala until Thursday, May 12, 12 pm to 4 pm. The procession and dispersal of the sand into the Passaic River will be on Sunday, May 15 at 3 pm. To learn more about the Newark Museum Tibet Collection Centennial visit, newarkmuseum.org.
In the main science lab, teen-aged Science Explorers are unpacking fossils, creating identification boards, collecting model magic and pipe cleaners needed to make model dinosaurs and generally getting ready for Dinosaur Day at the Newark Museum on Sunday, May 1 from 10 am to 4:30 pm.
The most popular single-day festival on the Museum’s calendar brings fossils hunters, face painters and scientists to downtown Newark, where families can touch real dinosaur bones, learn about geological disasters and talk to professional geologists about what they study.
This is the fourth year that we’ve presented Dinosaur Day and we learn something new every year. This year, because of what’s happened in Japan, we’ll be focusing on Natural Disasters. Rutgers University will be bringing their Tsunami Tank, Kean University will investigate lightning strikes. There will even be a Hurricane Tunnel, where visitors can step inside and feel how strong hurricane-strength winds really are — 75 miles per hour! I can’t wait to try it myself.
It takes a lot of people working together to pull off a festival like this. The tent is being set up in the sculpture garden and most of the supplies have been ordered, except for the Dry Ice that’s needed for making comets in the Cool Comets demonstration. Kevin Conod, the Manager of the Planetarium, will pick that up that morning, on his way in.
It takes months to prepare for one day, but when the museum is filled with families, everyone having a great time, together, it’s worth it. Especially when it has to do with dinosaurs!
Susan Petroulas is the manager of science education at the Newark Museum.
To find out more about events and activities at the Newark Museum, visit newarkmuseum.org.
The Newark Museum’s Education Department sponsored a series of
conferences for American teachers in 2010 that focused on ways to use American art to teach history and culture, supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The conferences have resulted in various new activities and curriculum resources for schools.
During the April 2010 conference, the Museum invited an actress named Tia James to portray the young woman in Winslow Homer’s famous 1866 painting, “Near Andersonville.” Before her performance at the Museum, Ms. James read various narratives and historical accounts about the lives of enslaved African Americans during the Civil War era. This research enabled her to create a script that introduces us to the character which she named “Charity.” Wearing an exact replica of the clothing in Homer’s painting, Ms. James’ “Charity” expresses her fear and anxiety about the progress of the war and what the future might be.
In January 2011, we invited Ms. James back to the Museum to professionally film her performance. This 10-minute production was developed with the Museum’s Education and Information Systems Departments working in partnership. The finished film is now available on YouTube and used by schools that are seeking connections to the Museum’s American art collection. The film will be the central component of a new curriculum for schools that addresses the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War (available in Fall 2011).
To learn more about school programs the Newark Museum offers, visit newarkmuseum.org.
This article was written by Ted Lind, Deputy Director for Education, Newark Museum.
Video created by Raymond Stivala, Manager of Web / Multimedia Development, Newark Museum.
As a Grant Writer, I’m always looking ahead – raising money for next season’s exhibitions or school programs. Right now my focus is on the Museum’s work to help keep kids healthy.
Did you know that more than one-third of U.S. children are considered overweight or obese? Or that, on average, children gain six, unhealthy pounds each year?
Statistics like these have galvanized the Museum into action. Through its upcoming fall exhibition – Generation Fit: Breaking the Cycle of Childhood Obesity – children and families will learn the science behind weight gain as interactive activities and compelling animation teach them how to eat better and exercise more.
And this is only the beginning. Over the next two years, the Museum will work with partners across Newark and New Jersey to host community walks and runs, coordinate a weight loss contest, run programs for schools and teachers, organize outdoor learning experiences to get families hiking, and more.
I’ve already benefitted. Just reading and writing about the science behind this exhibit has inspired me to eat healthier and exercise more.
Yet, as I worked on this project, a walk through the Museum’s galleries
reminded me that our concerns about health and appearance and nutrition, and all that they symbolize, aren’t all that new.
I can’t help but wonder what Colonel Elihu Hall, whose portrait hangs in the Museum’s American galleries, would make of Generation Fit: Breaking the Cycle of Childhood Obesity. Painted in 1773 by Charles Willson Peale, he was a member of the growing merchant class in the American colonies who commissioned portraits to flaunt their prosperity and social position. How best to indicate that he was a man of means? Pretend to be overweight! Experts say Colonel Hall may have padded his stomach for the portrait because fat was associated with wealth and health.
The striking Portrait of Willie Gee, painted in 1904 by Robert Henri, gives a different view of health and wealth. I learned that the apple the young newspaper boy holds is more than just a piece of fruit. Because it served as an inexpensive source of nutrition for a wide swath of the population, it also served as a symbol of democracy.
It’s one of the things I love most about the Newark Museum – the unexpected connections and surprises I find every time I walk through the galleries and what makes working here so compelling.
For more information about the Newark Museum, visit newarkmuseum.org.
Anu Malhotra is a Grants Writer at the Newark Museum.