Art Exhibitions

Portland Japanese Garden is a natural vehicle through which to explore Japanese art and design. Art exhibitions explore ideas and aesthetics integral to the fabric of life in Japan. Introducing a wide array of artists and art forms, these exhibitions reflect on ways we experience peace through connections to art, nature, and one another.

Art exhibitions at Portland Japanese Garden began with Diane Durston, Curator Emerita (former Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art and Education from 2007-2018). It launched with a series of four special exhibitions a year— one for each of the four seasons—that would reflect the intersection of art and nature and introduce the importance of seasonality in Japanese art and gardens. The exhibitions would celebrate work influenced by the aesthetics of Japan or created in response to the Garden itself.

Aki Nakanishi, Portland Japanese Garden’s current Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art, and Education explains, “Traditionally, the role of Japanese gardens is to offer a place of quiet contemplation detached from the noise of modern society. But at the same time, Japanese gardens have always embraced, if not strived for a sense of symbiosis created at the intersection of architecture, art, and nature, which demonstrates the balance that can be achieved when nature and human ingenuity converge.”

Now more than a decade later, Portland Japanese Garden has successfully introduced the work of more than 75 artists representing Japan and its unique artistic traditions. The works come from internationally known artists—some of whom have been recognized as Living National Treasures in Japan, as well as rising young artists and artisans from all parts of the country.

Painting with Thread: The Art and Culture of Fukusa

Fukusa from the Sinton Collection. Photo by Nina Johnson

Commemorating the recent donation of The Peter and Beverly Sinton Japanese Gift and Altar Cover Collection, this exhibition showcases the art of gift-giving through the beauty of fukusa. Fukusa are ornate textiles traditionally made of Japanese silk that were draped over formal gifts and presented amongst prominent families during the Edo period (1603 – 1868) through Taishō period (1912-1926) in Japan. A fukusa could be embellished through weaving, dyeing, painting and embroidery or sometimes a combination of techniques. The fukusa was often not part of the gift, but an important aspect of the gift-giving ritual and would be returned to the original owner often with a small reciprocal gift. Simplified versions of this practice remain in Japan today to commemorate weddings, births and funerals.  

In the Calvin and Mayho Tanabe Gallery, nature-inspired fukusa related to the plants and scenes familiar within Portland Japanese Garden are on display. The elaborate designs and materials used to create the fukusa also revealed a message filled with symbolism about the gift, gift-giver, and occasion to the recipient. These functional works of art embody a high level of technique and artistry in their designs.  Visit Painting with Thread: The Art and Culture of Fukusa to learn more about this fascinating textile artform and the practice of gift-giving in Japanese culture. 

About Peter and Beverly Sinton:  

Peter and Beverly Sinton of San Francisco, CA have long held an interest and passion for Japanese art. Peter is a 4th generation San Franciscan and Beverly is a 4th generation Japanese American from Honolulu. Together, they spent two years in the Peace Corps and throughout their careers pursued an interest in art collecting and Japanese textiles. In 2024, they generously donated their collection of fukusa, gift-covers, and uchishiki, altar covers, to Portland Japanese Garden to be enjoyed and appreciated by guests as The Peter and Beverly Sinton Gift and Altar Cover Collection.  

In addition to a lifetime of collecting art, the couple share a commitment to public service. After earning an MA from Stanford, Peter Sinton pursued a journalism career, writing for Time and Business Week magazines as well as the San Francisco Chronicle. Peter has served as a volunteer docent at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and board member of the Society for Asian Art.  Beverly Sinton earned a BA in Art History from the University of California, Berkeley and worked for a law firm and workplace evaluation company. She also volunteered at Shanti Project and Zen Hospice to support terminally ill patients, as well as the Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic. On June 23, 2024 Portland Japanese Garden looks forward to hosting the couple as Peter Sinton presents on the fascinating world of Japanese textiles from their decades of collecting.  

Subtle Expressions of Culture: Peter and Beverly Sinton Discuss Donation of Japanese Textiles to Portland Japanese Garden

Explore Previous Art Exhibitions

2018 Art Exhibitions