Learning new skills is good for the soul! The talented teaching artists, educators, and docents at USC PAM are here to share their knowledge of Asian art and artmaking techniques with you. Via Learning@PAM you will learn things like origami and calligraphy and find out what motivates our educators to do the beautiful work that they do.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020: Learning@PAM – Javanese Shadow Puppets


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The Javanese shadow puppet play, called wayang kulit, is an important form of art and entertainment on the Indonesian island of Java. Performed by a puppet master, called a dalang, who is accompanied by a gamelan orchestra, these plays are an act of endurance: they last all night, beginning in the evening and ending at dawn as stories embody humor, drama, and moral teachings. The dalang and orchestra sit on one side of a white cloth “screen” with a bright light creating shadows of the puppets for viewers sitting on the other side. Wayang kulit is traditionally performed on ritual days and for religious ceremonies.

Most wayang plays are stories from the two great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and stories of Javanese origin. Wayang kulit combines religious meaning, entertaining storytelling, extraordinary musicality, deep philosophical messages, current political commentary, and bawdy humor. These performances depict the relationships between good and evil and express the importance of respect, duty, and loyalty.

Wayang kulit puppets are made with cut and painted animal hide with a horn handle. Most are given the form of the heroes and villains of the story being told: Rama, Sita, Hanuman, Ravana, Arjuna, Dewi Uma, etc. This leaf-shaped shadow puppet represents the ‘Kayon’, also referred to as the ‘Gunungan’. Featuring 8 branches, it symbolizes the Tree of Life, or axis of the universe, that connects the earthly world with that of the spirits. It is also symbolic of the Cosmic Mountain and serves a variety of dramatic functions in the Javanese wayang kulit tradition.

At the beginning of each performance, the dalang begins with a prayer. The first puppet he raises is the Kayon, which he dances, spins, and flutters in the air, breathing life into the surrounding puppets. The Kayon continues to be used throughout the performance, marking the beginning, the end, and every important transition. Its presence may indicate a change of scene, the entrance of a major character, elements of nature, or pieces of scenery such as a palace. The kayon may also be used to symbolize abstract themes such as war or destructive forces of nature such as fire and storms. Finally, the kayon is the last puppet to be used in a performance, closing out the depiction of the spirit world events.

Performed in Javanese royal courts as early as the ninth century, shadow puppetry maintains its high status as one of the sacred heirlooms of the court. It has been adapted in recent years for television and public education campaigns.

Tree of Life Puppet;
Indonesia; Java;
20th century
water buffalo hide; horn; pigments; thread
37.25″ H x 17.75″ W
Gift of Newman Family Survivor’s Trust

Tuesday, July 14, 2020: Learning@PAM – Close Looking with Student Educators


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Our USC Student Educator, Athena Foo, takes us through a “close look” at a Yam Mask from the USC PAM Permanent Collection.

Image credit:
Yam Mask, (New Guinea; Maprik Area),
Mid 20th C., Vegetable fiber; pigment,
4.5″ H x 8″ W x 8″ D
Gift of Harlan Givelber

Tuesday, July 7, 2020: Learning@PAM – Guardian Figures


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This guardian figure (nio) was originally one of a pair of fierce beings created for the purpose of protecting Buddhist teachings, monks, and devotees. Commonly seen vigilantly flanking the entrance gate at Buddhist temples across Japan, nio pairs appear frightening to scare away dangerous forces and enemies of Buddhism before they have the chance to enter sacred ground. This image would have been placed on the right side of a temple’s entrance. This is indicated by his open mouth, whereas the guardian on the left would have stood with his mouth closed. Nio are typically quite dynamic with menacing facial expressions, bulging muscles, and wide-spread fingers, all physical features helping to intensify his protective nature. Its flowing sash adds to the dynamic quality of the statue.

The fierce guardian tradition can be traced back to India, embraced by East and Southeast Asian cultures as they adopted Buddhism for purposes of prosperity and political power. Although these images are frightening in appearance, they are actually comforting for those followers seeking refuge in Buddhism, knowing that the guardians’ presence will help preserve Buddhist law. Japanese guardian figures are perhaps the most dynamic of the guardian traditions, with larger images at some of the best-known sites towering over devotees, staring down with bulging veins while howling with rage. The guardians at the Great South Gates of Todai-ji, from 1203, are 27 feet, 3 inches tall! Once brightly painted, the Todai-ji guardian figures were carefully restored in 1988-1993.

Agyo (Guardian Deity)
Japan, Meiji period (1868-1912)
Wood, paint, lacquer
Gift of Dr. Jeannette R. Hushaw

Tuesday, June 30, 2020 – Learning@PAM: Anime Drawing Part 2


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In Part 2 of this anime drawing lesson, follow as teaching artist @norishirasu guides us through a new creation of his anime character inspired by samurai art.

Recommended viewing: Part 1 of Anime drawing from last week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020: Learning@PAM – Anime Drawing


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Follow as teaching artist @norishirasu reimagines a traditional Japanese woodblock design found in the USC PAM’s collection and recreates it into an anime drawing.

Quick fact: Utagawa Toyokuni III was the most popular, prolific and commercially successful designer of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in 19th-century Japan. The particular woodblock print Nori uses as inspiration is from 1861.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020: Learning@PAM – Origami Swan


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Join our USC PAM Teaching Artist, Idelle, as she guides you through making an origami swan!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020 – Closer Look


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Take a closer look with USC Student Educators, Athena Foo! Watch and learn about a Japanese incense box in our permanent collection.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 – Educator Night@PAM

Calling all educators and anyone interested in teaching art! Have you signed up or Educator Night@PAM? Taking place tonight, here is a demonstration of the “Memory Portrait” lesson, as designed artist by Yeu Q Nguyen. @yeuqnguyen and inspired by our exhibition, We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020 – Educator Night@PAM


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Learning@PAM – K-12 educators are invited to Educator Night@PAM on Tuesday, May 12 at 4pm. This virtual workshop will feature a hands-on arts-integrated lesson demonstration and gallery conversation.

Join educators from the USC Pacific Asia Museum in taking a close look at select artworks from the current special exhibition We Are Here: Contemporary Art and Asian Voices in Los Angeles. Discover how artists draw from their family histories to create compelling works of art that invite viewers to think about their own experiences and heritage.
Then, follow along with artist @yeuqnguyen as she walks you through a hands-on image transfer technique featured in our standards –based curriculum, designed to teach critical thinking and analysis skills and build empathy in students.

All registered participants will receive a Zoom link, digital copy of the lesson plan, and supply list prior to the workshop so that you can follow along. Register at link in bio.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 – Invisible Ink Drawing


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Learning to make an invisible ink drawing with USC PAM teaching artist @yeuqnguyen. Enjoy and share your art work with us for us to share as well!

Tuesday, April 23, 2020 – Ink Brush Painting


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Watch artist and educator, Nori Shirasu, demonstrate how to do “sumi-e” or ink brush painting! This is part 2 of Nori’s lesson on brush painting and calligraphy, please watch his Chinese calligraphy lesson from a couple of weeks ago to understand the essential tools for calligraphy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020: Snapping Dragon Head Origami!


Tuesday, April 7, 2020: Chinese Calligraphy

Learning@PAM: Chinese Calligraphy. Watch artist and educator, Nori Shirasu, provide a brief introduction to Chinese calligraphy. Learn about Basic Chinese characters, the essential tools for calligraphy, along with a demonstration at the end!

Tuesday, March 31, 2020: Meet our Docents!

Learn about treasured docent, Kathy Wales, as she shares about one of her favorite objects from USC PAM’s permanent collection

Kathy Wales
Docent class of 2019

Why I Docent:

Guiding student tours gives me a wonderful opportunity to see our collection through the eyes of children and teenagers. I am able to share in their joy and excitement as they see the objects for the first time. Sometimes we are serious and thoughtful, and sometimes we are silly and share many laughs. The students’ insightful questions motivate me to learn more about Asian art and to make connections among the objects on display. Student tours always leave me feeling high on life.

Favorite Object Reflection:

Hye-Soon Lee, (Korea, b. 1965), Old Memory 1, 1993,
Silk and wool
Gift of Hye-Soon Lee

Old Memory 1
There is something about Old Memory 1 that pulls me in and makes me stay. It somehow says to me, “Wait, enjoy all the colors and bask in the details of the flowers and plants.” Gradually, I lose myself in the beauty of this object and forget about analyzing it from a formal standpoint or interpreting the symbols. As I do this, my first memories come flowing back. I remember my mother embroidering in the sun, and tears flow down my cheeks.