Unsullied, Like a Lotus in Mud - Announcements - e-flux

Thematic Preface

In the realm of art, Buddhist traditions from Korea, China, and Japan have long been respected and celebrated. Renowned for their spiritual depth, exquisite craftsmanship, and distinct aesthetic, these art forms have fascinated scholars, collectors, and enthusiasts for centuries. However, one aspect that has often been overlooked is the role of gender in shaping and influencing these artworks.

The Hoam Museum of Art is proud to present “Unsullied, Like a Lotus in Mud,” a groundbreaking special exhibition that sheds new light on the venerated Buddhist art of Korea, China, and Japan through the lens of gender. By examining these artworks from a gender perspective, we aim to deconstruct the traditional narratives and explore the influence of gender on the creation, interpretation, and reception of Buddhism-inspired art.

This exhibition draws inspiration from the lotus flower, one of the most potent symbols in Buddhist iconography. Often depicted as emerging from the murky depths of a pond, the lotus represents purity, enlightenment, and the potential for spiritual growth even in the midst of adversity. Similarly, the artworks showcased in “Unsullied, Like a Lotus in Mud” illuminate the resilience of individuals who challenged gender norms and carved their own paths within the Buddhist artistic tradition.

Throughout history, women have faced numerous obstacles in the pursuit of artistic expression. Their contributions to the Buddhist art of Korea, China, and Japan have often been overshadowed or rendered invisible. However, recent scholarship and the growing recognition of gender studies as an essential lens of analysis have sparked a renewed interest in exploring and reclaiming these stories.

It is important to acknowledge that the societal contexts of these countries greatly differed, influencing the opportunities available to women artists. In ancient Korea, for instance, female artists had more freedom and were actively involved in the creation of Buddhist art. This stands in stark contrast to China and Japan, where women faced stricter restrictions and were often confined to limited roles in the artistic sphere.

The inclusion of contemporary references and themes in this exhibition serves as a reminder that the dialogue surrounding gender and art remains relevant and ongoing. By juxtaposing historical artworks and perspectives with those of contemporary artists, we invite visitors to reflect on the progress made and the challenges that continue to persist in breaking free from traditional gender expectations within the art world.

Through “Unsullied, Like a Lotus in Mud,” the Hoam Museum of Art invites you to immerse yourself in a transformative experience that invites contemplation, challenges preconceptions, and redefines the boundaries of Buddhist art. By exploring the interplay between gender and artistic expression, we hope to foster a greater understanding and appreciation for the multifaceted nature of these captivating art forms.


  • Anderson, Susan L. Asian Art. Pearson, 2013.
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Women and Gender in Korean Buddhist Art.” Unsullied, Like a Lotus in Mud Exhibition Catalogue. 2017.
  • Wong, Dorothy C. Asian Art: An Anthology. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.

Suggested Reading:

  1. Anderson, Susan L. Gender and the South China Miracle: Two Worlds of Factory Women. University of California Press, 1999.
  2. Mease, Alison. Women in Japanese Religions. New York University Press, 2015.
  3. Kim, Youngna. “Buddhist Nuns in Chos┼Ćn Korea: Status and Challenges.” Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and Their Search for Adventure. Eds. Susie Fisher and Sheena Frances Crawford. University of Central Lancashire Press, 2022.

The Hoam Museum of Art presents Unsullied, Like a Lotus in Mud, a groundbreaking special exhibition that newly considers the venerated Buddhist art of Korea, China, and Japan through the lens of gender.

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