Experience Japan through art: Thorne Gallery opens new display that will run throughout the semester

Keene State’s Thorne-Sagendorph Gallery welcomes a new exhibit showcasing pieces from 20th century Japan. The exhibit titled, “Yosooi: Fashion and Vernacular Photography in 20th Century Japan” was curated by Dr. Lucile Druet of Kansai Gaidai University in Japan and the Assistant Curator of the Japan Society of New York Ayaka lida.

An opening reception for the exhibit was held Wednesday, Sept. 6 at the Thorne Gallery.

According to a press release from Keene State’s Archivist Rodney Obien, the photographs in the exhibit are based on a collection of over 3,000 photographs ranging from the years 1912-1989. Various photographs depict school children, family photos and candid photographs of everyday life of the people from that time.

Additionally, the exhibit includes fashion pieces that are important to the culture such as Japanese (wasō or kimono) and Western (yōsō) modes of dress.

“We wanted to show the variety of patterns and silhouettes adorning Japanese selves and bodies-may they be in kimono or Western dress,” said Druet in the release. “… Each photograph represents a fragmentary memory. The photographs are candid vernacular photographs of everyday people, comprising a stunning array of themes, ranging from formal to casual.”

lida said vernacular photographraphy is a valuable and often forgotten art form.

“Vernacular photographs play a crucial role in telling the stories of what people wore at a given time and place,” lida said in the release. “Vernacular photography, because of its personal nature, often remains unrecorded and gets discarded overtime, which makes this collection such a unique resource for historical research.”

According to the release, Obien and Art Department Chair Jon Gitelson organized the exhibit with inspiration coming from a course they taught together. “The exhibition idea came out of the course ART 399 “Found Japan” that Jon and I taught in Spring 2023,” Obien stated in the release. “The course focused on teaching students curation, archiving, and exhibit design through studying Japanese photography. Lucile and Ayaka guest lectured in the course, and we decided it would be great to do an exhibition with them.” The exhibit is now on display and will be until the end of the semester in December.

Nicole Dumont can be contacted at

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