Wabi-sabi – Flawed Beauty At Hill Center

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Celebrating the return of the cherry blossoms is an annual experience for the denizens of Studio Maury, as it is for many other District residents. This year, rather than focusing solely on their beauty, art teacher Lauren Bomba took a new approach, encouraging her early childhood classes to “appreciate the imperfection and individuality of each blossom, all while accepting that their beauty is impermanent” and accepting that “there is something inherently beautiful in the process of letting go.” This is particularly resonant with the children, who are experiencing the dislocation of a move to temporary space on the Eliot-Hine campus while their school is being torn down and rebuilt.

Building on that and continuing with the Japanese connection, Ms. Bomba introduced the concept of Wabi-sabi, an aesthetic sensibility based on the idea that both life and art are beautiful not because they are perfect and eternal, but because they are imperfect and fleeting. “Nothing lasts; nothing is finished; and nothing is perfect.” She outfitted her students with digital cameras and turned them loose on the school grounds. Working in pairs, the students became teachers to one another (a thing of beauty, in itself).

Their savvy should not have been unexpected, given their previous experience with cell phone cameras, but still came as a delightful surprise. The artists zoomed in and out, finding balance within their compositions and capturing the imperfect beauty of their new school home: the gorgeous patina on the basketball goal after years of rusting outside in the elements; the resilient weed growing through a crack in the blacktop, determined to grow despite the challenging terrain; the beauty in a splat of bird poop on smooth wood; and a gooey Popsicle wrapper shining in the sun.

A picture is worth a thousand words and the Maury 3 and 4 year olds have dozens of photographs on display at the Young Artists Gallery (ground floor, east of the main staircase) at Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Ms. Bomba invites you to “come see for yourself what this Wabi-sabi thing is all about!”  The show will hang through the end of October.