Japan Lecture Series 2011-2112

Lyon College, Batesville, Arkansas  

Free admission

The Japan Lecture Series is made possible by the grant from the Freeman Foundation.            

For more information, contact Mieko U. Peek at mieko.peek@lyon.edu


The Spirit of Sumi-e


Karen Kurka Jensen

Independent Artist


7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Derby Lecture Hall, Lyon College


The Beginnings of Japanese Food

Dr. Samuel Yamashita

Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History at Pomona College


7 pm-8:30 pm

February 23, 2012

Derby Lecture Hall, Lyon College


Karen Kurka Jensen has been studying and painting sumi-e for over 20 years. She discovered this art form while living in Minneapolis, MN, where she met Susan Frame and Susan Christie and began studying with them. Now as an American sumi-e artist with 20 years experience, including ten years of classical lessons, her work has evolved becoming part of the growing exploration of a new wave of sumi-e artists. Grounded by the traditional methods and materials, she has applied new vision and perspective to create a bold unique style and expression.

Sumi-e is the Asian word for "ink picture." Every sumi-e artist uses the traditional materials to create their work: sumi-e ink, bamboo brush and asian paper. The goal of sumi-e is not to reproduce the appearance of the subject but to capture its soul. To paint a flower it is not necessary to paint every petal and leaf, but it is essential to convey its ‘spirit’, its liveliness, and fragrance. Deceptively simple in appearance, it can be a refuge of inner peace and self-enlightenment. Underlying the apparent simplicity and harmony of composition, there is first of all a philosophy, one that sees a unifying pattern of life in all natural forms. The sumi-e artist celebrates the simplest things on earth as representing continuing life.

Karen says, "I believe that sumi-e is about touching the world around you with all your senses and in turn letting the world touch you – then learning to express that touch through the language of brush and ink. My work is largely abstract and impressionistic, derived from hours spent out of doors. I don’t always go to sketch but to simply drink in all of my surroundings, to be at one with the world around me. I have always felt the power of the land, the beauty of the earth and through my art yearn to pay forward just a little of the wild peace and wonder that I've experienced. I've also found freedom in the traditions of sumi-e and a voice for the love I have for nature in all its varied forms."

George Henry, photographer, author and wildlife enthusiast, says, "Karen combines her skill in gesture and contour with a heightened sensitivity to her subject matter. She uses scenes in nature as her inspiration and adds vitality to her art with imagery that is both real and imagined. The style of her painting lies between pure abstraction and figurative realism. The flow of ink on paper brings insight into her world by inviting you to share in the moment or mood created by her art. The traditions of sumi-e take on new meaning with Karen. Her fresh figurative images draw you into her paintings, but it is her abstract expressions that are the most compelling and memorable." -

Karen exhibits across the United States, including national and international shows, and has won several awards for her work. She was also awarded an Iowa Arts Council Arts Grant in 2009 through the National Endowment for the Arts.





Dr. Samuel Yamashita is the Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History at Pomona College, where he has taught since 1983. He received his Ph.D. in Japanese history at the University of Michigan in 1981 and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University and a senior tutor in East Asian studies there before he moved to Pomona. He teaches Asian history at Pomona, and his introductory Asian history class, "Asian Traditions," a survey of Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and Korean history from prehistory to 1500, is one of the most popular classes at the college.

A Confucian specialist with mastery of both classical Chinese and classical Japanese, Yamashita has written extensively on early modern and modern Japanese intellectual and cultural history, and his first book, Master Sorai 's Responsals,a translation of Ogyū Sorai's Sorai sensei tōmonsho, was published by the University of Hawai’i Press in 1994. He is also the co-translator of The Four-Seven Debate: An Annotated Translation of the Most Famous Controversy in Korean Neo-Confucian Thought (State University of New York Press, 1995), which makes the fascinating correspondence of two leading sixteenth-century Korean Confucians available to an English-reading public.

In the 1990s Yamashita recognized that there was a dearth of primary source material pertaining to the Pacific War that he could use in his courses on modern Japan, and he began to collect letters and diaries written by ordinary Japanese during the war. As he read them, he found the picture of life on the home front that emerges from these personal documents is not well represented in the existing English-language literature on the war. It is a more complex picture that challenges the prevailing view of a unified and patriotic Japanese citizenry and raises important questions about the way the war ended with the dropping of two atomic bombs. He has collected over a hundred diaries by Japanese adults, servicemen, teenagers, and children and has read and translated nearly sixty five of these personal journals. He recently published eight of these diaries in Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese (University of Hawai’i Press, 2005; currently in its third printing) and has given book talks all over the country since the fall of 2005 and was interviewed by Scott Simon (National Public Radio) and Kitty Felde (KPCC-Pasadena).

He is currently working on two food projects: the first is a history of Pacific Rim fusion cuisine, and he recently delivered "The Significance of Hawai’i Regional Cuisine in Postcolonial Hawai’i," his first paper on Pacific Rim fusion cuisine, at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Americam Studies. The second project is a history of Japanese food, and "Licking Salt for the Nation: Food and Diet in Wartime Japan, 1937-1945, his first foray into Japanese food studies, will be included in Theodore Bestor's Cuisine, Consumption and Culture: Food in Contemporary Japan (University of California Press, in preparation).