My connecting points with Japan and its art are scattered: there is, of course, Van Gogh, who painted gnarly, flowering branches like those he’d seen in Japanese prints. At home, on our hi-fi, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly could be heard along with Mel Torme. And there was that Marlon Brando movie, Teahouse of the August Moon.
Imperfect though these experiences may have been as informants, they were my introduction to Japan, and to its art. While I don’t know what I’d think of Japanese-style egg fu yung today, I’ve never lost interest in the art. This is not to say I'm knowledgeable about it. I’m not, but I can’t let that matter. I use the instruments I have: my eyes and my time and whatever notions might occur to me as I look.
“5,000 Years of Japanese Art: Treasures from the Packard Collection” is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through June 6, 2010.