In 2003, about 5 years after I moved to California, I decided to start a group called the Asian Art Curators of Southern California in the hope of forming a network of colleagues who could share information, collaborate on projects and become a friendly community. I invited all the Asian art curators from the museums in the region to gather at Pacific Asia Museum, and cooked red pepper soup and a salad for lunch! Since then, the group has been gathering twice a year at various members’ institutions from San Diego to Santa Barbara, and much information has been exchanged over much fancier lunches. One of the most supportive members of the group is my colleague and friend Ken, who works full-time as a Professor of Asian art history at a local college, has written many volumes on Japanese art and typically has about 3 or 4 exhibitions he has curated up in a museum somewhere in the country at any one time! Over the years, I have enjoyed working with him on various exhibitions, first while I was on staff at Pacific Asia Museum and he was an adjunct curator, then briefly while he was on staff there and I was an adjunct a few years later! His exhibitions, lectures and writings on Japanese prints, gardens and many other areas of Japanese art and culture are so thoroughly researched, lucid and entertaining that on more than one occasion, they have sparked my enthusiasm for aspects of Japanese art of which I’d been unfamiliar or just plain uninterested.
Today, our curators’ group met at the Japanese garden in Pasadena where I have been helping lately. Ken is the expert in Japanese gardens in the United States and has been involved with the garden for several years during its restoration and transition into a non-profit organization. I have him to thank for introducing me to the owners of the garden a few months ago and encouraging me to become involved there as they expand their programs and open the garden more to the public. So, after today’s meeting, I gave him a 1954 edition of a book called Japanese Colour Prints by Laurence Binyon and J.J.O. Sexton, a charming little vintage hardcover that I hoped he didn’t already have on his many shelves. Somehow he didn’t, and he accepted my little token of gratitude for being just the kind of thoughtful colleague I was hoping to cultivate when I started this group a dozen years ago.