Susanna Can Tell You What You’re Looking At

If you’re not sure what you’re admiring in the galleries of the Morikami Museum, ask for Susanna Brooks Lavallee.

She is the Curator of Japanese Art, and she gives one heck of a tour – even to someone who knows his or her way around a museum exhibit. She answers questions you didn’t even know you had, like ‘what does the moon mean in some of the woodblock prints?’ Well, glad you asked… The moon symbolizes aspects of change and transformation, also evidenced in the cutting-edge artistic techniques used in the prints that make the figures seem like they’re floating in a 3-D photograph rather than a 2-D illustration.

And the plum blossoms? They stand for hope, renewal or the beauty of the courtesan, who remains lovely even under the harshest conditions. What does an exposed toe or wrist mean on the prints of the women draped in plum blossom-embellished kimono?

She’s the equivalent of today’s Playboy centerfold, enticing men with a flash of flesh not traditionally exposed on a woman’s mysterious body. Deep stuff.

If you plan to check out “Moonlight Memories, Plum Blossom Dreams: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Collection of James Stepp and Peter Zimmer,” ask for a walk-through with Susanna. She’ll really show you what you’re staring at.

Show is on display until Dec. 6, 2009.

The main spaces of The Morikami Museum's gallery.

The main spaces of The Morikami Museum's gallery.

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