Wabi Sabi at OHCA

“When we can look upon a
seemingly random work of our own
with interest in what happens to be there
(rather than what we wish to be there),
we will encounter the same fulfillment
as that experienced on an unknown wilderness trail.”

– Ann O’Hanlon


Each year, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts celebrates the
“Wabi Sabi” theme with a juried Gallery exhibit. 

O’Hanlon’s 15th Annual Wabi-Sabi Exhibit will be held from August 30-September 20, 2018 in the O’Hanlon Gallery, and will be juried by Mary-Ann Milford-Lutzker, PhD


Juror Bio: Mary-Ann Milford-Lutzker, Professor of Asian Art History, holds the Carver Chair in East Asian Studies at Mills College, and is chair of the Department of Art and Art History.  She received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.  She teaches the history of art of India, China, Japan, and the Himalayas.  Her early work focused on classical Indian and Indonesian art for which she wrote on and curated exhibitions including The Image of Women in Indian Art, and Myths and Symbols in Indonesian Art.  Since the mid-90s she has been working with women artists in India.  In 1997 she curated Women Artists of India: A Celebration of Independence, an exhibition that was part of the Festival of India that celebrated India’s fifty years of independence from British colonial rule.  In 2001 she curated Mapping a Life, the first retrospective of Zarina Hashmi’s art.  She has written extensively on Indian women artists, and written and curated exhibitions of Asian American artists, including Mayumi Oda, Wang Ch’ang-chieh, Narae Mochizuki, etc.  In 2008 she co-curated The Offering Table: Women Activist Artists from Korea.  In 2012 she was an NEH fellow at the Institute for Asian American Art, New York University.  In 2017 she curated In-Between Places: Korean-American Artists in the Bay Area, and wrote for the exhibition catalogue.

Dr. Milford-Lutzker is a founding member of SACHI (Society for Art and Cultural Heritage of India) and serves on the Advisory Committee for the Society for Asian Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.  She also serves on national and international art organization boards.

Wabi Sabi at O’Hanlon

One of the first in spotlighting this concept locally, OHCA was quick to recognize its particular resonance with the core philosophy the Center, with its emphasis on opening our senses to the natural world around us and of noticing and finding beauty in the simplest and least pretentious of its elements. Over these past years our exploration of this theme and its “thousand facets” has brought an increasing appreciation of its significance not only in our arts but in our lives.

We are grateful indeed to those artists who have participated in past exhibits and to those seekers who have shared our interests here, and we look forward to increasing the involvement and exchange.


An Introduction to Wabi-Sabi

To understand Wabi-Sabi, we have to grasp the concept that beauty is not in the object, but rather in the experience of it, – the mood, the atmosphere, the feeling it evokes, – a feeling that even the Japanese refuse to try to define.  Its scope is not limited to art but becomes an overall approach to life, to the magic of everyday living. In essence, it invites us to quiet contemplation, encouraging us to slow down, look closely and be patient.

Some of the elements involved are:

  • A less-is-more mindset, seeking simplicity, naturalness, restraint, appreciating the inconspicuous and unpretentious.
  • Attention not to what we have made or bought, but to what is there, what has been there all along, perhaps, without our notice. And noticing it!
  • An acceptance to turn away from our culture’s “straitjacket of perfection” (which leaves no room for the imagination) and turn instead to the mystery and uniqueness of the imperfect, the flawed, the incomplete.
  • A respect for the inevitability of change, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a special beauty in the impermanence of all things.

2018 Wabi-Sabi Workshops

Wabi Sabi Hari Booklet w/Naomi Kubota Lee
Saturday, August 11, 2018 @ 3:00 pm6:00 pm

The Way of Wabi Sabi w/Naomi Kubota Lee
Sunday, August 19 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Arranging Nature: Shorenge Style Ikebana w/Makiko Goto-Widerman
Sunday, August 26 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Naomi Kubota Lee’s wabi-sabi art website: NaomiLeeGallery.com

Wabi-Sabi Links

For further information and a broader perspective, the following references are suggested:

Leonard Koren’s books:

Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Wabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts

Background on Wabi-Sabi concepts http://nobleharbor.com/tea/chado/WhatIsWabi-Sabi.htm

Comprehensive essay on Wabi-Sabi http://www.hermitary.com/solitude/aesthetics.html

Photography http://www.stillinthestream.com/files/index.htm

FLICKR Wabi-Sabi photo groups www.flickr.com

Haiku http://rrpowell.homestead.com/files/blogger.html

For Writers http://www.stillinthestream.com/files/wabisabiforwriters.htm

Designers http://www.nextmaruni.com/e/concept/concept_3.html

Japanese aesthetics, Wabi-Sabi and the tea ceremony http://www.art.unt.edu/ntieva/artcurr/asian/wabisabi.html



Elaine Nehm