The Japanese Garden and Unintended Destinations


Photographs by Robert Cleveland

June 23 - August 1, 2018

Opening reception
Saturday, June 23, 2018
6:00 to 9:00 pm


The Japanese Garden and Unintended Destinations is a visual response to a profound reverence
and an endless fascination with the Japanese garden. Two unintended destinations,
reconciliation and cross-cultural friendship, were triggered by this visual exploration.
The rhythmic labyrinthine garden landscapes vividly echo the mosaic of Japanese culture. These
compose a symphony of shape, form, line, color, texture, and thought in which the Japanese
aesthetic reduces the complex to the simple and reflects the multiple view points seen in the
kaiyu-shiki-teien, or stroll garden. Each single photograph in the triptych series contributes to the
synthesis of the whole. The vertical format is inspired by the 8th century Kahejiku, also known as
Japanese scroll paintings. The resulting imagery reflects that which is lyrical, kinetic, sensual,
harmonic, tranquil, delicate, and meditative. Many present a Japanese Haiku tone visualizing
nature and its ephemeral beauty. During the printing process these visual ideas are organically
woven together with transformative Japanese Washi-like papers which have a “classic look and a
distinctive cloud-like pattern of Kozo Manila hemp fibers”.

Born of this eight-year project, the two unintended destinations, reconciliation and cross-cultural
friendship were surprising. The first, reconciliation, is the result of a powerful cathartic experience.
Following World War II, I was immersed in incendiary propaganda and blinding prejudicial
attitudes toward the Japanese, as seen through acts of vilification and demonization. War crimes
are horrific, but to condemn the entire Japanese society for “military atrocities” is legally and
morally reprehensible! I have wrestled with these lifelong torments. The passion and peace of
this image making process and my ensuing reflection has culminated in a healing journey toward
the Japanese. The second development wears the face of cross-cultural friendship. The
botanical gardens of Japan and the Japanese Friendship Gardens of North America have been
great catalysts of healing, understanding, and inner harmony as they have helped extinguish the
fiery cauldrons sparked decades ago.