New Special Exhibition at HMNS – Vanishing Arts: Highlights from the Beasley-Hwang Collection

March 14, 2017

Opening March 24 – FREE for Members

Over a period of several decades, two medical doctors studied Hepatitis B in Asia. This husband and wife team, Dr. Palmer Beasley and Dr. Lu Yu Hwang, took advantage of their travels abroad to collect artifacts wherever they went. Sadly, Dr. Beasley passed away in 2012, and the museum received their collection shortly thereafter. The exhibit presents highlights from this collection, which includes objects from Taiwan, mainland China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Mexico, the United States and Canada. Close to fifty objects are displayed, with photographs, and videos showcasing how they were made and used.

One example of the objects on display is a jaguar mask from Oaxaca, Mexico. Carved from a soft wood, and painted with very bright colors, it stands out because of a scene depicted on the top of the animal’s head. It is a copy of a page from pre-Columbian codex, showing a group of warriors conquering a town (an event noted by the warriors’ drawn weapons and the arrow piercing the hill). The three warriors approach the hill while rafting on water. One can see aquatic creatures, including a bird-fish, shells, and a crocodile just below these men.

The imagery seen on the carving is a faithful rendering of what we can find in Codex Zouche-Nuttall, a document that belongs to the Mixtec culture. As such, this mask, probably carved no more than thirty years ago, bridges the present with the Precolumbian past. It shows a great awareness of and pride in the carvers’ past.

Vanishing Arts: Highlights from the Beasley-Hwang Collection opens on March 24.

Authored By Dirk Van Tuerenhout

As curator of anthropology, Dirk is responsible for the museum’s artifact collection and is involved in its temporary and permanent anthropology exhibits. Dirk is an expert in human cultures; he curates the Museum’s Hall of the Americas and specializes in native American cultures like the Aztec and Maya.

2 responses to “New Special Exhibition at HMNS – Vanishing Arts: Highlights from the Beasley-Hwang Collection”

  1. Raime says:

    Wow! That is so cool to have a contemporary artists so deeply connected to some pretty rare and esoteric history of their culture. I’m Latin American and African and while I adore my heritage, I can hardly name an ancient text from one or the other (let alone a specific page of an ancient codex). Although, I’m not sure if the sub-group of Arawaks in Puerto Rico had a distinct writing system or even any written historical texts. I only know that the majority on the islands were wiped out by illness, even though the language still survives. Do you know anything about the Latin American Caribbean cultures, Dr. Van Tuerenhout??

  2. Dirk Van Tuerenhout says:

    Hello Raime,

    Thank you for your comment. I am more specialized in Mesoamerican cultures than in Caribbean cultures. I am sure you are correct that there are few – if any – prehispanic writing systems in the Caribbean. The reason the carver from Oaxaca was able to connect with his past is because that particular codex he borrowed from survived the turmoil that was the Conquest. I hope you will be able to come see the exhibit. Kind regards, Dirk Van Tuerenhout.

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