As students enter the west entrance of the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University, they are greeted by an over-blown black and white portrait of a woman.
The Asian woman is dressed in a collared shirt and a satchel is hung in front of her, with the knot tied at her shoulder. Her left hand is lightly grasped around her child, who is held close to her chest in the satchel.
The title, printed in white and baby blue, reads, “Love and Blessings: The Art of Baby Carriers,” one of four exhibitions currently on display at the Wang Center.
Over 20 pieces of beautifully designed baby satchels representing the culture of various Chinese and Taiwanese ethnic groups are on display in the Skylight Gallery
The exhibition, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of China and the Hanlin Chinese Culture Association, shows the diverse ethnic makeup of the Chinese population through various design patterns, symbols and layouts of a common household item that is still being used today. The baby carriers are taken from five ethnic groups in southeast China: Miao, Zhuang, Dong, Shui and Yi, in addition to Han, the dominating population and aboriginal tribe of Taiwan.
While most of the carriers consist of two blocks of fabric with two-to-four straps extended on adjacent sides, differences lie in the size of the carriers. One Miao baby carrier spans over 12 feet.
Shui carriers feature floral patterns with thick embroideries, whereas Zhuang carriers favor geometric patterns and pockets for added warmth and symbolic meanings. Dong carriers often feature the design of the Chinese character for “water well,” which is a symbol for longevity and prosperity.
Moving toward Jasmine dining hall, several paintings depicting Japanese ramen shops and shopping centers are hung on the wall separating the dining hall and the exhibit space, named Jasmine Gallery.
“The Everyday Joys of Japan: Paintings By Jiro Osuga” is a series of oil paintings that highlight Japanese urban culture of food and leisure through a foreign perspective.
Osuga, a Japanese artist born in Japan who spent his youth in Nigeria and England, uses his paintings to express the feeling of displacement as a youth, both geologically and psychologically.
The psychological impact of displacement can be felt through his paintings. His paintings are in a style similar to Japanese comic books, with sharp outlines, varying facial expressions, attention to detail and a theme centered on Japanese life.
The paintings reflected Osuga’s Japanese identity, yet the use of oil and canvas signifies his European influenced upbringing as an artist.
Despite its proximity to the dining hall, students walk past the exhibit without as much as turning their head. When asked for comment, many refused while the rest simply admitted to never have seen the exhibit.
However, the exhibit’s guest book provided a thoughtful comment from a viewer of the gallery.
Navita Khaira, a sophomore arts major wrote: “I’m incredibly intrigued by your artwork, the way it unfolds to reveal a deeper look into Japanese everyday life. Truly enjoy watching. I’ve become a fan.”
In the Jasmine video room, interviews with Dr. Jack G. Shaheen of New York University play on a loop. The video is apart of the “A is for Arab: Stereotypes in popular U.S. Culture” exhibit shown at the Theater Lobby Gallery.
Drawn from Shaheen’s archival book of the same title, “A is for Arab” is structured as an educational exhibit with eight pairs of collage posters.The posters are filled with excerpts from comic books, books, films, cartoons, games, advertisements and toys depicting negative stereotypes of Arabs in western culture, paired with a few paragraphs explaining each stereotypical representation and a quote by Shaheen.
The real attention-grabber for the exhibit is the use of double exposure of collages for each panel and the theme of children’s primers as the narrative.
Laura Chen-Schultz, deputy director of the A/P/A Institute at New York University, one of the exhibit organizers, explained the reason in an email.
“The purpose of the double exposure style of the panels was to demonstrate how the images we see on the front side/surface shouldn’t be accepted at mere face value, and to help viewers understand that there’s always more behind what they are seeing than often meets the eye.”
Chen-Schultz said the use of Children’s primer is to emphasize how stereotypes are ingrained in Americans at an early age and reiterated throughout their life, something that must be changed at every level.
The “A is for Arab” exhibit is provided by the same organizer from New York University who installed the “Marvels and Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics 1942-1986” exhibit at the Wang Center in the spring of 2014.
“I remember that exhibition was so well received, I realized students are akin to such topics so I asked the organizers of NYU to exhibit another one,” Jinyoung Jin, the associate director of cultural programming at the Wang Center, said.
Tucked beneath the central staircase connecting the first and second floor is the Zodiac Gallery, where woodblock prints by Tibetan monks are on display. This is a part of the “Pearl of the Snowlands: Tibetan Buddhist Printing From The Derge Parkhang” exhibit.
The exhibit is a part of the collaborate project between the Derge Parkhang, publication and distribution center for Tibetan texts, Wesleyan University and Columbia College Chicago.
Displayed on the wall by the exhibit it say that it is the first authorized U.S. exhibition of such work. It demonstrates the level of craftsmanship, dedication and determination the Tibetan monks possess.
While the exhibitions are certainly educational and awe-inspiring, the layout of the Wang Center, in relation to Jasmine dining hall, played a role in how each exhibit is viewed.
“Since it’s not a conventional museum, we get a lot of foot traffic but for various reasons,” Jin said. “My job is to guide the viewers by giving them a sense of direction to each exhibit.”
Jin does so by utilizing different background colors for each exhibit.
“It’s so hidden away from campus that people aren’t gonna come all the way here to see some art,” Anwen Lewis, a music major who often goes to the Wang Center for lunch and to wander the galleries, said.
“They need to do a better job advertising,” Michaela Carrillo, a marine biology major, said.
“I kinda like that no one knows about it though,” Lewis said.