I have been hooked on The Artist Project from the moment I watched the Israeli artist Izhar Patkin, in Season 1, explain how he challenged himself—someone from a religious background with no tradition of representing god—to try to depict the Hindu deity Shiva. Now in its fifth season, The Artist Project continues to give us the opportunity to listen in as artists confront works in The Met collection that they may not understand, but that nonetheless speak to them.
Of course, as head of the Department of Asian Art at The Met, I'm most excited when artists talk about their encounters with Asian artworks. In Season 3, the American multimedia artist James Nares offers a wonderfully intuitive response to calligraphy, while the German photographer Thomas Struth finds a contemplative serenity in a gallery of Chinese Buddhist sculpture.
In Season 5, the Cambodian-American artist Sopheap Pich, who sculpts forms out of latticework skeins of rattan, finds inspiration in the graphic line work of Vincent van Gogh; the British ceramic artist Edmund de Waal focuses on how a white Ming porcelain inspires him; and the American painter James Siena analyzes the materiality and scale of a Chinese wall painting.
In each case, what the artist teaches us is that, before a work of art is a drawing, a pitcher, or a Buddha, it is a physical form defined by texture, size, line, and color, and that these elements are understandable by everyone. The Artist Project shows us that we can find inspiration anywhere because art is its own language and we can all be interpreters of what it is saying.
The Artist Project is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.