An ikebana exhibit at UCLA plants seeds for the next generation of students interested in the ancient Japanese art of flower arrangement.
You're creating a piece of magic. Your attempt, the same in theater, is to make it look like it was nothing. But you don't see all the frustration and all the effort.
View an online slideshow featuring more photos from "Discover Ikebana: the Japanese Art of Flowers."
Kyoko Kassarjian, director of the Sogetsu School of Japan, San Fernando Valley Branch, holds the highest teaching rank of riji in Sogetsu ikebana. Her experience schooling ikebana students spans over 40 years, including six years at UCLA Extension. Yet she counts a recent UCLA exhibit highlighting the Sogetsu style of ikebana as one of the highlights of her career.
"To have this exhibit was my...dream, and finally my dream came true," Kassarjian said, reflecting upon the two-day event "Discover Ikebana: the Japanese Art of Flowers" in Ackerman Union's 2nd floor lounge held on Feb. 21 and 22. The Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, UCLA Extension, the Consulate General of Japan, and the Rafu Shimpo newspaper sponsored the exhibition showcasing the ikebana arrangements of Kassarjian and her students.
The three-dimensional art form that they practice aims for a harmony of linear construction, rhythm, and color, using flowers, plants and other objects as artistic media. On both days of the event, visitors gathered to watch ikebana arrangements being put together.
"I am interested in the young generation, so ikebana can become international," said Kassarjian, who also teaches at Mission College, Pierce College, and out of her own home.
An avant-garde offshoot of the ancient art form, the Sogetsu School was founded by Sofu Teshigahara in 1927 with the belief that ikebana should be steeped in tradition yet flexible enough to accommodate the modern Japanese lifestyle. Kassarijian demonstrates to her students how to incorporate materials like plastic, plaster, and steel into their arrangements. The blending of modern and traditional elements was on full display at the exhibit.
Sogetsu, Ikenobo, and Ohara are three of the most popular ikebana schools, among more than two thousand registered with the Japanese Ministry of Education. Ikenobo is the oldest school of ikebana in Japan. The Buddhist monk Ikenobo Senkei founded the school in the fifteenth century, which is know for its rikka (standing flowers) style and was practiced by priests and aristocrats. Piled-up flowers in a shallow, flat container typify the Ohara style. Unshin Ohara founded the school in the late nineteenth-century when ikebana was still an exclusive art form of the upper classes, but it was the first ikebana school to break away from the Ikenobo style. The Sogetsu School was established when ikebana schools began opening their doors to people from all social classes.
During the occupation of Japan, many wives of U.S. servicemen learned ikebana and later helped to spread word of the art form around the world. Kassarijian hopes the worldwide growth of ikebana continues into the future.