The Pomona College Art Museum: Reflections on Time

by Ashley Achee According to Buddha, a wooden box was created at the beginning of time. It measured sixteen miles on each side. Once every hundred years, a single poppy seed was placed in the box. This would continue until it was full, and Buddha said that it would be completed before kalpa, or a significant amount of time (aeon).

Thousands of years after Buddha, I am staring at a small, red chest. It is completely filled with poppy seeds. Artist Hirokazu Kosaka had painstakingly filled this box, slowly, over time, with a seemingly infinite number of seeds. From behind me, my friend exhales, “Whoa.” There is no other word for being in the presence of this work of art. It is the perfect representation for how time slowly transforms our lives.

Just down the hall from the Kosaka exhibit, there is a room full of beautiful photographs of an abandoned beach house. John Divola, the artist, demonstrates how incredibly time has impacted this ruin. There is evidence of modern graffiti artists, old fires, stunning sunsets through shattered glass, and furniture that appears untouched by time. Similarly to Kosaka’s kalpa box, this exhibit really shows how time affects structures. This house had a rich history that is evident by the crumbling walls, scorch marks, and abandoned books that survived the decades.

As soon as I enter the next room, I am shocked to see muscles rippling, breasts bouncing, and hair flying. On each wall, there are slow-motion projections of naked people doing various activities (watering plants, lifting a child, dancing, gymnastics, and more). Watching these figures, I am reminded of the kalpa box again. I imagine the young mother with a half-full box, looking upon her child, who has only one or two poppy seeds. Meanwhile, the elderly man, who is lifting burlap bags, must be struggling under the weight of a hundred pounds of seeds. David Michalek’s “Figure Studies” is probably one of the most thought-provoking and memorable exhibits I have ever seen in a museum. Each model is so interesting and captivating that I found myself staring at them for nearly an hour.

Pomona College’s Art Museum has really started the year off with a remarkable collection. From Michalek’s projections to Divola’s photographs and finally Kosaka’s terrific collection, there is not a lackluster piece of art. I recommend stopping in and seeing the kalpa box and admiring “Figure Studies.” Personally, I came away with a stronger appreciation for various mediums of art and a newfound knowledge of Buddhist spirituality that can be applied to many different facets of life.