Opening Monday May 30 at Hancock Shaker Villiage is an extraordinary exhibition featuring three acclaimed Asian artists: Yusuke Asai, Pinaree Sanpitak, and Kimsooja. In A Spirit of Gift, A Place of Sharing, Asai, Sanpiak, and Kimsooja focus on the spiritual connection to Shakers, and have approached their art and this campus-wide show as a gift. Although they come from cultures that are distinct both from each other and from the Shakers, they all share an integration of the spiritual and the physical in their work, as well as communal ideals. Their unique interpretations of the Shaker spirit encourage us to emerge with a new appreciation and understanding of the Shakers, and perhaps of ourselves.
A gift, to share.
Inside the Poultry House, Japanese artist Yusuke Asai is creating a mural painting using 17 kinds of soil and rocks collected from the grounds of Hancock Shaker Village and its vicinity. Like the Shakers – who built the Round Stone Barn from rocks they quarried on the southern portion of the land, and who painted the trim an ochre yellow using a vein of ochre that they found in those very stones – he works with what is on the land.
His work evokes dreams, as “dreams are the wells of imagination, giving adults and children—and perhaps even animals—creativity, even if we might forget everything once we wake up.” In Japan it is believed that the soul resides in all things animate and inanimate, so integrated into his installation Asai incorporates Shaker furniture and gift drawings to listen to their voices.
For the opening, Asai will lead a workshop, “Soil Searching,” making soil pigment paintings drawing inspiration from the artist’s imaginative creatures as well as the Shaker “gift” drawings. Participants’ soil-colored drawings will become contemporary artistic versions of gift drawings to be exchanged with those done by other participants. The workshop will be held at 1PM Monday May 30.
One of the leading and most respected feminist artists in Southeast Asia, Pinaree Sanpitak finds her ideal in the utopian society of the Shakers, where women held equal social standing to men. The Brick Dwelling and the land surrounding it are the primary impetus for Sanpitak’s site-specific work, both indoors and outdoors.
Admiring the spirit of the Shakers—simple, joyous, nurturing, sustaining one another through land, work, and community — Sanpitak’s artistic practice is a contemporary model of sustenance that extends to the land. You’ll see on the lawn a group of three steel sculptures she’s made in collaboration with a local blacksmith and our gardeners. Beautiful art forms, these stupas also serve to grow both Berkshire and Thai herbs and vegetables on the trellis-like structures.
Sanpitak is working with our chef to create dishes at Bimi’s Café using the farm’s produce as part of an ongoing global collaborative art-and-food project using Sanpitak’s stupa-shaped cooking molds and crockery. It has thus far taken place in 12 countries and 20 cities—21 including Pittsfield! —around the world. Please enjoy the special menu available at Bimi’s Café beginning May 30 through November.
Kimsooja (who was born in S Korea and lives in Seoul, Paris, and New York), is creating new work in the Round Stone Barn and the Laundry & Machine Shop. An ongoing theme of Kimsooja’s work is textiles and the human labors related to it — sewing, weaving, and threading. These activities become a metaphor for connecting disparate places and transcending conflicts.
In A Spirit of Gift, A Place of Sharing, Kimsooja creates new works that follow the Shaker story of migration from Europe, settlement, and the building of their own lifestyle. Within the Laundry & Machine Shop, Kimsooja studies the play of natural light in the building as well as its history as a room in which Sisters did laundry. She’s chosen Shaker linens from our collection, which she’s hanging from clotheslines in the washroom while the ethereal light she’s created in the ironing room highlights the spiritual importance of seemingly mundane work, offering an ode to Mother Ann Lee’s philosophy of “hands to work, hearts to God.”
While he learned pottery in high school, Yusuke Asai is essentially a self-taught artist from Japan. An extremely imaginative and resourceful artist, his motifs range from pure abstraction to forms based on elements found in nature such as plants, flowers, and animals, as well as other organic shapes, real and imagined.
Pinaree Sanpitak is one of Thailand’s most internationally recognized artists. Her primary inspiration has been the female body, distilled to its most basic forms and imbued with an ethereal spirituality. Her rigorous focus on the female form, explored through a variety of media—painting, drawing, sculpture, textiles, ceramics, performance, and culinary arts, to name but a few—has resulted in a varied and innovative body of work.
Kimsooja is a South Korean multi-disciplinary conceptual artist based in-between New York, Paris, and Seoul. She represented Korea for the 24th São Paulo Biennale in 1998 and the 55th Venice Biennale Korean Pavilion in 2013, and has been in more than thirty international biennials and triennials.
Dr. Miwako Tezuka is Associate Director of the Reversible Destiny Foundation in New York, established by the artist Arakawa and the poet Madeline Gins. Currently, she also serves as Associate Curator of the Hawaiʻi Triennial 2022. Previously, she was Gallery Director of Japan Society and Curator of Contemporary Art at Asia Society Museum, both in New York.
HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE CURATOR
Prior to becoming curator at Hancock Shaker Village, Dr. Linda Johnson’s research and teaching focus has been in American and European Art History at the University of Michigan-Flint, and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Animal Ethics, Oxford, England.
ABOUT HANCOCK SHAKER VILLAGE
Home to the Shakers for almost 200 years, Hancock Shaker Village is the preeminent Shaker living history museum in the United States. A cultural icon in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts with 20 historic buildings on 750 bucolic acres, Hancock Shaker Village brings the Shaker story to life and preserves it for future generations. Through Shaker architecture, design, a 22,000-piece collection, and engaging programming, we promote appreciation of the aesthetics, beliefs, achievement, and controversies that have defined the Shaker experience in America.
Located at 1843 West Housatonic Street in Pittsfield Massachusetts, Hancock Shaker Village regularly presents exhibitions that focus on the Shakers, while also inviting contemporary artists to reinterpret Shaker themes. Recent artists include James Turrell and Nicholas Mosse’s Lapsed Quaker Ware, and Climbing the Holy Hill, an immersive outdoor exhibition featuring the works of Brad Wells and Roomful of Teeth, Our Native Daughters, and Allison Smith.
For more information about Hancock Shaker Village visit HancockShakerVillage.org.