Tea… so humble, so genteel. Or is it? Its 2,000-year-old history crosses geographical, political, and cultural boundaries. Tea seems to have been such an intense economic force, being that is was at the heart of several international wars. Gone are the days when the mistress of the house would keep precious tea leaves locked in special designed chests. Yet tea’s uniqueness still warrants ceremonial rituals in which its consumption is prescribed by a tea master.
Museums have too often become forums for entertainment; at best, places for education. In a world that constantly asks us to move, how do we learn to stop and be thoughtful?
The tea ceremony necessitates that we do just this.
Taking Tea, an installation by artist Judith Gregory, consists of a minimalist “house” constructed from used tea leaves and tea bags and echoes the tumultuous journey of tea from the mountains of China to the lace cloths of British aristocracy.
The installation provides a contemplative, contemporary site for tea ceremonies as well as a site for the interpretation of messages found in tea leaves. Imagery of tea leaves, inspired by the artist’s visit to the Charleston Tea Plantation, are among the patterns visitors will discover on some of the eleven foot long transparent panels which define this graceful space and introduce participants to a new way of experiencing one of their favorite beverages.
Chautauqua artist Judy Gregory often works with used tea bags (which friends and neighbors save for her, preferably flow-through bags). Once the tea bags are opened into squares, she dries them and then brushes on a transparent acrylic medium, making them into a sheet which allows her to fashion them into designs.
This exhibition marks a new direction for the Burchfield Penney Art Center as it relates to our Useum installations. We are moving from a space set aside for learning through play to designating a variety of exhibitions with interactivity, integrating the Useum program into our gallery experience. So, please join Judith Olson Gregory and The Center as we all search the tea leaves, looking for our fortune and inspiration.
Scott Propeack, chief curator
Presented by Nancy & Kevin Gavagan and QCI Asset Management with additional support from Cameros Family Lead Trust.
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