Object Lessons

Object Lesson: Scholar’s Objects by Okuhara Seiko

In this work, by Okuhara Seiko (Japanese, 1837–1913), an orchid in full bloom sits atop a wooden plant stand—a “scholar’s rock” at its feet adjacent to a stack of traditionally bound books and a Chinese-style vase holding an ornamental reishi mushroom. The objects are closely associated with the furnishings and decor of a scholar’s study, and represent—individually and in the aggregate—a scholar’s intellectual curiosity and taste. Read More

Object Lesson: Rural Occupations by Kano Tsunenobu

A pair of six-fold screens by Kano Tsunenobu (1636-1713) in NOMA’s collection that depicts the labor involved in rice cultivation throughout the year has provided both the title and focus of the current exhibition in the Japanese galleries: Rural Occupations: Images of Work in Edo-Period Art. Images of urban and rural workers were popular painting themes during the Edo period (1615-1868), created largely for patrons within the governing classes: the military rulers, or shoguns; the daimyo (provincial leaders akin to governors); and the samurai.  Read More

Object Lesson: Aluminum Co. of America, Louis Klinkscales by Margaret Bourke-White

Featured in NOMA’s exhibition Atomic Number Thirteen: Aluminum in 20th-Century Design, this portrait by Margaret Bourke-White illustrates the hard labor involved in aluminum production. Bourke-White was the first woman war correspondent and the first woman photographer to work for Life magazine. Her photograph of the Fort Peck Dam appeared on the cover of Life’s first issue in 1936, one year after she was featured in a monographic exhibition at NOMA. Read More

Object Lesson: Maker Chair by Joris Laarman

When chemists first successfully extracted aluminum from the earth in the 1850s, the raw element was as precious as gold. Today we take aluminum for granted, though it allows for nearly every facet of modern life through its use in architecture, industry, and transportation. From the nineteenth century until today, artists and designers have increasingly turned to aluminum because its unique properties–lightweight, strong, can be pressed thin, resistant to corrosion–allow for the exploration of new ideas through objects. Read More

Object Lesson: WATER by Edward Burtynsky

To create the works in his project WATER, Edward Burtynsky (Canadian, born 1955) travelled around the globe, from the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of the Ganges, weaving together an ambitious representation of water’s increasingly fragmented lifecycle. In enormous, color, aerial images, many bordering on the edge of complete abstraction, Burtynsky traces the various roles that water plays in modern life—as a source of healthy ecosystems and energy, as a key element in cultural and religious rituals, and as a rapidly depleting resource. Read More

Object Lesson: To guna Post

The to guna literally translates to “house of words”—it is a men’s meeting house and considered to be the center of the community. A to guna is often sited in a high place overlooking the village. The roofs of the structures are constructed of layers of millet stalks, which can be over six feet deep and supported by wooden beams. Read More