Kimono Buffet and the Sum(o) of All Things
By Tom Wachunas
It all started when I volunteered my services to ArtsinStark to write up the press release for the Sumo wrestling bout scheduled for March 22 at the Canton Museum of Art. After some internet researching of Sumo and pondering such an event in conjunction with the work of Itchiku Kubota, I had great concerns about efficacy and propriety, and shared them with the good folks at ArtsinStark, including Robb Hankins, ArtsinStark president and CEO.
Not long into our e-mail exchanges, I was told (not by Mr. Hankins) that my services would not be needed after all, as ArtsinStark decided to handle the Sumo publicity in-house. I admit that my initial reaction was that perhaps a message was being sent: If you’re not with us, you’re against us. But that’s another story. Besides, I’ve been writing press releases and program notes for the Canton Symphony with no problems, even though I might not really “like” or “get behind” a particular piece that the Symphony has slated to perform.
What’s really at issue here is something more complicated. Hankins’ response to my concerns spoke volumes about the operative philosophy behind Kimonofest – the myriad of events and activities that have been attached to the Kimono exhibit. Kimonofest was clearly designed to offer and reflect the cultural cornucopia that is modern-day Japan to as wide an audience as possible. “Not low-brow, not high-brow, but every brow,” Hankins wrote. Accompanying all this cultural bric-a-brac, this buffet of all things for all people, it seems to me, is a throw-caution-to-the-wind attitude that experiencing art must first, by definition, be fun.
I have nothing against the Sumo tradition or even witnessing a Sumo bout. But not here, not in this museum. Call me old-school and high-brow, then. Art museums are not just reliquaries that preserve the remarkable and precious accomplishments of the past. They are living sanctuaries of a sort, lifting up the genius and profundity of individuals like Itchiku Kubota, who spent a lifetime deeply, spiritually connected to translating the awesome glories of nature.
This exhibit, as I’ve mentioned before, is a masterfully prepared feast indeed. But beware the lesser chefs who have offered side dishes of their own. Some are truly tasteless.
I welcome your comments, one and all.