I applied to intern with artist Tania El Khoury for both personal and academic reasons. As the daughter of a Lebanese immigrant, I feel deep-rooted connections to the country and what occurs within its borders. I make a conscious effort to be aware of its triumphs and of its downfalls, and the presence of refugees in Lebanon has, in my experience, caused controversy. Thus, my involvement in El Khoury’s work is my own personal way of combatting that controversy and being part of the exploration of Middle Eastern politics.
The first thing I noticed about El Khoury is that everyone in a room with her seems to be drawn to her – not only as an artist but also as a person. She has this fascinating energy to her that makes you want to learn more about her or just listen to her speak. She exudes authenticity and warmth. Originally, I could not tell if I felt this energy simply because I feel an innate connection to all Lebanese women because of my own Lebanese heritage, but as I observed the rest of the room and spoke to other interns, it seemed to me that everyone else was just as intrigued. Her presence is not stately and intense, as she truly is very humble and kind, but she radiates strength and knowledge in a way that has you hanging on to every word she says. Conversely, just as El Khoury’s interns attempt to get to know her better, she is doing the same with us. She cares deeply for her work, her subjects, and her audience and wants to ensure those who are representing her and guiding her audience can do so in the appropriate way.
In terms of discussing her work, El Khoury is incredibly particular and precise about every detail about her pieces and the acquisition of her material. Where she falls short, especially in terms of accessibility, she recognizes and seems to be making a conscious effort to create a sensorium that attempts to include all audiences. Accessibility at Bryn Mawr is something that is constantly being brought up, and I think El Khoury was impressed by the students’ advocacy for the utmost amount of inclusion possible. Although she is incredibly particular in her work, I believe she appreciates that her works lose effect the less accessible they become.
I truly am so excited to work with El Khoury in the fall. I know that she has much to teach us about her work, her inspiration, and all the various factors that go into the production of live art. Through her work I hope to grow and witness the growth of her audience through such cathartic and important stories.
The National Library of Korea recently published an illustrated catalogue of the 42 Korean books held in the Special Collections Department of the Bryn Mawr College Library. The catalogue, The Helen Chapin Korean Book Collection in the Bryn Mawr College Library (Seoul: National Library of Korea, 2017), consists of notes and illustrations for each book. Even though the collection is a small one, it includes numerous important early Korean printed books, including a 16th century Buddhist text and a significant number of 17th, 18th, and early 19th century books.
The work was edited by Hye-Eun Lee, Professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Sookmyung Women’s University and Jihee Han, Curator of the National Library of Korea, based on their work with the collection at Bryn Mawr College in 2011. Also included is an essay on the collection and its collector, Helen Burwell Chapin, Bryn Mawr College class of 1915, by Eric Pumroy, Seymour Adelman Director of Special Collections at the Bryn Mawr College Library. The catalogue is primarily in Korean.
Helen Chapin donated the collection to Bryn Mawr in 1950, shortly before her death, along with many other books, scrolls, and artifacts from Korea, China and Japan that she collected during her years of working in those countries as an independent scholar, beginning in the 1920s. She collected most of the Korean books after World War II when she worked for the United States Army in Korea surveying cultural monuments.
Among the highlights of the collection, as noted by Curator Jihee Han, are the Shurangama Sutra, a Buddhist text published in 1547, and a collection of literary texts published at the military camp at Hunryondogam in 1610 using wooden movable type. The catalogue can be viewed online in Scholarship, Research and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College: https://repository.brynmawr.edu/bmc_books/35/