By Natalya Jones
Sun Sentinel Correspondent
Jul 30, 2021 1:28 PM
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach is showcasing a compilation of work by Japanese scientist and artist Iwasaki Tsuneo called “Painting Enlightenment: Experiencing Wisdom and Compassion through Art and Science” through March 27, 2022.
The late Tsuneo seemed to be both left- and right-brained — his art encompasses both Buddhist philosophies and scientific wonders, emphasizing just how connected the universe really is. Images in his work are created with characters from the Heart Sutra, a revered Buddhist text.
“I call his innovation ‘visual scripture.’ You do not need to read or understand the contents of the scripture, the Heart Sutra, to benefit from its teachings about wisdom and compassion,” said Dr. Paula Arai, guest curator and associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at Louisiana State University. “Its central teaching is ‘Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form.’ It means that everything is impermanent, and everything is boundless. So, the universe is an ever-changing dance of interactivity. We affect each other. If we all affect each other, the rational thing to do is care about each other. You can learn this teaching in an intuitive, visual way by viewing his art.”
After Tsuneo retired as a research biologist, he developed a practice of copying sacred texts. Otherwise known as shyakyō, it is a traditional way to show devotion. However, Tsuneo added his own personal touch. Shyakyō involves sorting the verses written into vertical blocks, but Tsuneo rearranged them into scientific images like atoms, DNA, ants, lightning bolts and bubbles.
The exhibit came to the Morikami after its curator of Japanese art, Carla Stansifer, read Arai’s book about Iwasaki and the exhibition at LSU. Stansifer reached out and learned there was a traveling version of the exhibit being created. Originally set to be on display at Morikami during November of 2020, it was rescheduled for May of 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I am very glad that we are able to present these beautiful and meaningful works of art for our members and visitors alike,” Stansifer said.
When asked which piece of Iwasaki’s fits best in the garden, Stansifer said “Lotus Dew Drop.”
“Our garden was named Roji-en by our garden designer Hoichi Kurisu in 2001. Roji-en means ‘garden of the drops of dew’ and is meant to remind us of the ephemeral beauty all around us, just like the message that Iwasaki Tsuneo was trying to convey with his beautiful painting of a lotus leaf and dewdrops making ripples in a pond.”
The exhibit is free with paid museum admission. The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is at 4000 Morikami Park Road in Delray Beach. Call 561-495-0233 or visit morikami.org.