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Art exhibit showcases Japanese charms

Nov. 29, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Hundreds of Japanese artifacts will be available for viewing at Western Michigan University throughout the month of December.

The "Artifact: Luck, Purity and Protection" exhibition opens Thursday, Dec. 2, in the Netzorg-Kerr Gallery at University's Richmond Center for Visual Arts. It will be on display through Thursday, Dec. 23.

Gallery Hours

  • Monday through Thursday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Friday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Saturday: noon to 6 p.m.

From the Japanese root mamoru, "to protect," omamori are talismans meant to protect or benefit their possessor. Today, these objects are made of a variety of materials, whether painted pieces of wood, woven pouches or plastic miniatures. Omamori also take on a surprising array of culturally popular forms, from shrine‐maiden Hello Kitty to golden genitalia. These objects are most often created to be sold or gifted to visitors of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. Though omamori may be interpreted as a generalized term for any charm or talisman, the "Artifact" exhibition addresses omamori as Shinto and Buddhist items unique to Japanese culture.

Imbued with elements of religion and culture, omamori have also developed an aesthetic significance that has evolved throughout Japanese history. The production of omamori poses further questions about maintaining that which is sanctified, meaningful and personalized, in an age of massproduction. "Artifact" hopes to bring to light a highly understudied subject with historical and visual complexity. In an effort to expand modern conceptions of Japan, the show offers insight into the effects of pop culture and societal tastes on a well‐established tradition.

The show is made possible by an award from the Friends of the Richmond Center for Visual Arts. This year's recipients are seniors Morgan Medor and Eric Mendes, anthropology and art history, respectively. Their work is supported by professors specializing in art history, anthropology, comparative religion and Japanese language.

"Artifact: Luck, Purity and Protection" is funded by the Friends of the Richmond Center, Soga Japan Center, Haenicke Institute for Global Education, and University Center for the Humanities as well as the WMU departments of Comparative Religion, Art History, Anthropology, Foreign Languages and History.

For more information, contact the Frostic School of Art Exhibitions Office at (269) 387-2455.

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Media contact: Don Desmett, (269) 387-2455, donald.desmett@wmich.edu

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Western Michigan University
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