The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, July 19, 1960, Page Page 3, Image 3

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    TUESDAY, JULY 19, 1960
Summer Nebraskan
Page 3
The influence of one art or
culture on another is a confir
mation rather than an affir
mation, according to Dr. Pru
dence R. Myer of Tulane Uni
versity. Dr. Myer is a guest on the
University of Nebraska cam
pus through the summer pro
gram of the Far Eastern In
stitute. Seek First
Speaking Monday evening
on the "Western Image of
Eastern Art," Dr. Myer ex
plained that to be influenced
by the art of another culture,
one must first be searching
for something.
The seeking may or may
not be conscious, she ex
plained. It may be conscious,
but not explainable unjil the
sought becomes the found.
But it must be sought, Dr.
Myer emphasized.
What makes people seek
other cultures?
One reason for the quest,
according to Dr. Myer, is the
"cult of conformity."
When everything begins to
be too much alike, she ex
plained, people seek valid
parts of other cultures.
Search for Validity
Thus, she said, we learn
about other ways of life, other
forms of art, other religions
than those to which we are ac
customed and try to bring
what seems valid from them
into our own lives and cul
tures. There are other reasons as
well for an awakening inter
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Art Sought
est in the Orient and especi
ally in Japan, she said.
Mysterious Land
One reason is the aura of
mystery which surrounded
Japan until it was "opened"
for trade in the last century.
Before and immediately after
trade commenced, she ex
plained, the "naivete" of the
Western world about Japan
was amazing.
"The awareness of the East
has expanded just incredibly
in the last century," she said
"It is a cliche tcay so, it is
so obvious," Dr. Myer added.
Common knowledge about
Japan today, information
known even to small children
in modern America, was mys
terious and unknown a cen
tury ago.
A book on Japanese art
written in 1897, for example,
had to devote considerable
space to describing the slid
ing paper walls of Japanese
homes and to explaining the
now-familiar ricksha, she ex
plained. Knowledge Abounds
Today, she said, "Just
keeping one's eyes open one
can acquire a considerable
amount of knowledge" about
Japan and the other Oriental
Popular magazines carry
frequent articles on Oriental
art and culture, Dr. Myer
noted. Valuable information
can be gleaned from articles
on major acquisitions of mu
seums, from descriptions of
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special art exhibits of Jap
anese work, from news, fea
ture and depth articles writ
ten in and about Japan.
Books that would have cost
her $15 to $25 when she was
in college, containingv prints
of Japanese art, are sold to
day in paperback from for
$1.25, Dr. Myer said.
"There is no excuse," with
the possible exception of
time, for any interested per
son being unable to become
informed about Oriental art
and culture today, she said.
Varied Influenced
'Beyond art, examples of
Japanese and Oriental cul
ture are all around us, she
said, especially in home dec
orations. "Every furniture manufac-
turer in Grand Rapids mates
a line of Japanese or Chi
nese furniture," she com
mented. Willoware Is an example
of the Chinese influence in
china, she said. Made in Eng
land, Willoware shows a
strong Eastern influence in
its design. Today, she laughed,
we can buy inexpensive imi
tations of Willoware made in
Shoji screens, familiar to
most readers of home and
women's magazines, are an
other example of Japanese
culture used widely in mod
ern America.
And what of the Japanese
people? Is the influence two
edged? In modern Japan "bright
young things" work as secre
taries and in stores, wearing
the trimmest of Western
sheaths, elegant in Western
chemises' she said.
. The Old: Elegant
"The most sophisticated,
Indifference to the East
No Longer Feasible: Houn
"An indifference to the de
velopments in the Far East
is no longer possible in the
interest of peace for the
world today," said Franklin
W. Houn. ,
Houn is a guest lecturer
in the Far Eastern Institute
at the University this sum
mer and will stay on next
fall, he said. This summer
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the most eleeant" of the mod
em women of Japan, how
ever, blend the East and the
West, Dr. Myer said. They
retain the Japanese lines of
coiffure without the Old, lac
quered look, she said, and
are "simply elegant" in silk
This is the "ideal" use of
another culture, she .added.
The trend to adopt, then
adapt the Western culture is
typical of the Japanese adop
tion and later adaptation of
continental culture during
and after the Buddhist mis
sionary "movement of the 6th
and 7th centuries, Dr. Myer
That missionary movement,
similar in many aspects to
the Christian missionary
movement today, moved
from India to China to Japan,
she explained, and brought
Chinese influence to Japan's
culture as a whole and to
Japanese art.
Twin Streams
Since that time, she said,
Japanese and Chinese art
forms have progressed like
"two separate streams,"
moving together .than apart,
always similar, always dis
tinct. (
And always, when two cul
tures influence each other,
Dr. Myer added, the influ
ence depends on what is be
ing sought. w
Zen and Zen
The Western concept of Zen
Buddhism was one example
Dr. Myer used to show how
the influence depends on the
seeker and what is being
Much touted by modern
Beatniks, Zen is, to them, ad
mirable for its spontaneity
he is teaching Far Eastern
Politics and a seminar in in
ternational relations.
Raised in China
Born and educated in China,
he worked in the presidential
office in China until 1948,
when he came to the United
States, he said.
"It is important for Ameri
cans as well as the people of
other countries to have an
understanding of the Far East
today," Houn said.
"The world is becoming
smaller," Houn said, "a n d
these countries are no longer
so far off." "The rise of these
countries in the Far East has
made an understanding of Far
Eastern politics more im
portant to us," he added.
"Communist China especi
ally, is becoming a world
power and its activities vit-
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and inti!:iveness, she said.
To her it is a great discipline.
"You can't say that either
view is wrong or that either
is right," she said with a
smile. "But they are differ
ent." It would be as hard for her
to understand Beatnik Zen as
for Beatniks to understand her
idea of Zen, she said, although
both views derive from the
same subject.
Time Variations
And what the 19th century
impressionist painters, among
the first to bring Japanese
art to the West, sought and
found there is different from
what most modern artists
find in the Japanese culture,
she "said.
Going to the s ame seg-
meat of another culture at
different times, people dis
cover different facets of the
same thing, she said. And
at different times, people go
to different segments of the
same culture, depending
upon what they are seeking.
Art as a Confirmation
Someone who experiments
with an art form from an
other culture, be it painting,
sculpture, music or litera
ture, is confirming his own
ideas, not drawing upon
something totally new to him,
she said.
Totally disparate ideas can
not be combined, she ex
plained. First some idea, con
scious or not, must be held
in common to be developed
by mingling.
Ideas Develop
And knowledge, of course,
develops ideas. Familiarity
helps make ideas recogniz
able and enables the mingling
which brings varieties of cul
ture together.
ally affect us," Houn said.
Communist China and Rus
sia are attempting to separ
ate the communist countries
from the non-communist
countries of the world, and
their menace has become
greater, Houn said.
It is important that the non
communist countries under
stand the communist move
ment, he said. Without this
understanding it will not be
possible to solve our prob
lems in this area, he added.
"In the past there has been
indifference," Houn said. In
difference or ignorance of the
developments in the Far East
is no longer possible 'if prob
lems are to be solved and
peace maintained, Houn ex
plained. "We must be informed on
Communist affairs in the
world today," Houn said.
Studied Red China
After receiving his doctor
ate, Houn did research work
at the Library of Congress in
Washington, he said. At Stan
ford University Hdun con
tinued his research on Com
munist China, he added. He
taught at Michigan State Uni
versity, before going to Dubu
que University in Iowa, he
During the last ten years
Houn has continued his study
of Communist China, he said.
He has had numerous books
and articles published on this
subject, he said. His forth
coming book is entitled Pro
paganda and Indoctrination
in Communist China.
One of his earlier books,
published in 1957 and entitled
Central Government of China
1912-1928, dealt with the Chi
nese people's unsuccessful at
tempt to develop a democracy
patterned after those of. the
West in the third decade of
this century.
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V -Y "I
"Almost every time I lec
ture on Japanese art," Dr.
Myer said, "someone says
to me later, 'My father or
my brother or my fiance'
brought this back from Japan
or from Korea."
Thus increasing knowledge
of Japan creates interest in
Japanese culture. And inter
est brings out new facets of
Japanese culture.
It is extremely interesting
to follow the changes in the
Eastern influence on Western
art in the last century, Dr.
Myer said, as the culture of
the East moved from the
mysterious unknown to the
Servicemen Help
A large part of the aver
age American's knowledge of
the East, she said, probably
comes from returning serv
icemen. How are Americans, who
defeated, then occupied Ja
pan received?
Dr. Myer admitted she had
"heard" of Japanese resent
ment toward Americans, of
rejection of the American
way of life because of Amer
ica's own unsolved problems.
But "I have never talked
with anyone who felt it in
Japan," she added quickly.
Dr. Myer explained that the
word most frequently used to
describe the Japanese by
those who have visited Japan
is "charming."
Great Courtesy
The Japanese people are
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"extremely courteous," she
said. "If it is only superficial
courtesy, it is well con
cealed," she added.
Dr. Myer should know. Her
doctoral theisis, "Pre-Islamic
Religious Architecture in
Bihar and Bengal," is only a
sampling of her study of the
She has received awards
from the American Council of
Learned Societies, the Ameri
can Association of University
Women, the American Philos
ophical Society and the Tu
lane University Council on
Studied in Japan
In 1957-58 she was granted
a Senior Research Fellowship
under the Fullbright program.
Dr. Myer is a graduate of
Oberlin College and has done
graduate work at the New
York University Institute of
Fine Arts and Radcliffe Col
lege. She has held staff and facul
ty positions at the Cleveland
Museum of Art, Mills College,
Wellesley College, Mount
Holyoke College, Smith Col
lege and Newcomb College of
Tulane University, where she
is assistant professor of Art.
Dr. Myer is the author of
articles in "Artibus Asiae"
and "The Art Bulletin." She
has reviewed books for the
"Journal of Aesthetics, Arti
bus Asiae, Journal of the
Society of Architectural His
torians" and "Journal of
Asian Studies."
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