A View from the Museum of Art & Archaeology
While reading the Weekend Missourian last Saturday, I became very interested in the thoughtful efforts of Mizzou Tigers for Tigers to promote Tiger Awareness Month (pdf flyer) during October and our upcoming Homecoming activities. The organization, the nation’s first tiger mascot conservation program, has generated an impressive list of exhibits and speakers for Tiger Awareness Month. These include Francesca Owen’s art exhibit Beauty of the Beast: Tigers Facing Extinction on display in Jesse Hall, Ellis Library, and Reynolds Alumni Center and a presentation about the illegal tiger trade on October 11 by Richard Ellis from the American Museum of Natural History. So I wondered what the Museum of Art & Archaeology here on campus could contribute to Tiger Awareness Month?
Within the Museum’s 50th anniversary special exhibition, I discovered a magnificent Japanese ink on silk image of a tiger that I would like to share with you. It’s an iconic figure, just like Truman the Tiger in some ways, but it offers us a very different way of thinking about tigers. Tiger, by 19th century Japanese artist Kishi Renzon, leads us beyond environmental education into the deep realm of art and myth. In traditional Japanese culture, tigers were associated with the yin principle (also autumn, wind, and the West). Because tigers were not native to Japan, their very absence spurred the imagination of artists and led to tremendous interest in tiger images.
Is the same process happening to us? Does the impending absence of tigers also speak to our deepest imagination, stimulate a yin response to balance the destructive tendencies that threaten the very existence of tigers and the wilderness that nurtures them? Do we need wilderness, especially the idea of wilderness, to be truly human? During Tiger Awareness Month, I encourage you to visit and view Tiger by Kishi Renzon and then to share your own thoughts and reflections about this extraordinary example of tiger awareness. Go Tigers!