The Eskenazi Museum of Art is the recipient of a significant collection of 43 remarkable Japanese bamboo baskets and sculptural forms donated by Ann Harrison in memory of her late husband, Rusty. The Harrison Collection of Japanese baskets is comparable to some of the finest and most encompassing collections of Japanese bamboo art in the country.
Ann and Rusty Harrison assembled an extensive art collection and shared a lifelong interest in the arts. Graduates of Indiana University, they settled in Attica, Indiana, where Rusty worked at Harrison Steel for 45 years, becoming president of the organization in 1983. Ann studied textiles and metalsmithing at IU and later focused on painting.
During his service in the U.S. Navy, as a linguist stationed in Vietnam, Rusty was intrigued by the design and craftsmanship of the Asian art he encountered. Eventually returning to Asia, he visited Kyoto and Tokyo, Japan. During a later trip to New York, Rusty’s passion for these objects significantly deepened, as he observed a basket-making demonstration by a Japanese artist, and throughout his lifetime continued sharpening his knowledge of this art form and adding to the collection.
Bamboo has had significance in Japanese history and culture for thousands of years. The versatile plant offers the strength and flexibility required for durable constructions such as buildings and tools, while offering a natural beauty. Similarly, the dual nature of the plant inspires countless works of literature and art. Artists may spend a lifetime mastering the many stages of harvesting, processing, splitting, weaving, and bending this demanding medium. The Harrison collection illustrates the transformation of Japanese artisan-made baskets used in tea ceremonies in Japan after the fifteenth century, leading to the emergence of artist-signed sculptures during the nineteenth century.
“I am thrilled that such a significant and beautiful collection of Japanese bamboo baskets and sculpture is here in Bloomington where they will awe and delight all who see them,” said Judith Stubbs, Pamela Buell Curator of Asia Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art.
David Brenneman, Wilma E. Kelley Director at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, said of the Harrison gift, “We are very grateful to Ann for the generous and forward-thinking donation of the collection that she and Rusty carefully amassed over several years. These beautiful works of art will supplement our wonderful holdings of Japanese art, and we look forward to sharing them with IU students in the newly renovated museum.”
“Ann has been a long-time advocate of Indiana University and the arts,” said Dan Smith, President and CEO of the IU Foundation. “Her service on the IU Foundation Board of Directors and the Eskenazi Museum of Art National Advisory Board is nothing short of remarkable. This wonderful gift is yet another extension of Ann’s generosity and her tremendous dedication to advancing the arts at IU. We could not be more grateful and look forward to sharing this special collection with students and visitors for years to come.”
Several of the baskets will be installed in the renovated Asian Art Gallery when museum reopens in fall 2019. Additionally, the museum is planning a future exhibition of the entire collection.