Chinese Art Capstone

(McKie Gallery) Figures in a Garden explores the idealized world in Chinese culture. The Neo-Confucian philosophical understanding of the orderly world is featured in scenes such as gardens, landscapes, scholars, birds and plants. Through the guidance of Professor Ann Wicks (Art History) and Art Museum staff, senior Art History majors curated this exhibition from the permanent collection.

January 27, 2015 - June 27, 2015

About the Art History Capstone Exhibition

Engaging with students at Miami University in an academic environment goes well beyond working with interns, giving tours to classes of current exhibitions, or showing thematic selections from the collections. Art history majors are given the opportunity to curate an exhibition each Spring semester for their senior capstone course offered during the Fall term. The Spring 2015 exhibition Figures in a Garden: The Ideal World in Chinese Art is produced by eight students under the direction of Professor Ann Barrott Wicks in the Department of Art. With the assistance of Art Museum staff, the students learned about the curatorial process, collections management, education, installation practices, graphics design, marketing and promotion in order to develop the exhibition. They were responsible for defining the theme, selecting and researching the objects featured in the exhibition, writing the text, and designing the layout.

Figures in gardens show how an ideal space was constructed according to long-established Chinese beliefs. Gardens, especially those of the educated elite, were designed to model the perfect balance among heaven, earth and people. This idea of balance is deeply embedded in traditional Chinese thought. Around the 10th century in China, educated gentlemen, or scholars, adopted a philosophical blend of Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism called Neo-Confucianism. The primary goal of Neo-Confucians was self-cultivation—intellectually, spiritually and morally. Those who passed the imperial civil service exams were given prestigious positions in the Chinese bureaucracy with the potential of advising the emperor. The works in this exhibition picture gardens designed for these scholars’ meditation, as places where one’s vital essence could be refreshed. The landscapes, figures, birds and plants symbolically represent elements of the ideal Chinese world—nature in balance, harmony among all.

Art History Capstone Participants

a picture of all of the chinese capstone participants

Capstone class from left-right: Wilson Pittman, Danielle Riggs, Jim McClanahan, Delaney Lee, Alexandra Czajkowski, Abbigail Crawford, Naren Gao, Gabrielle Turner and Dr. Ann Wicks

Exhibition Programming

Thursday, February 3, 2015 5:30 p.m.

Figures in a Garden: The Ideal World in Chinese Art

Ann Barrot Wicks, Ph.D., Department of Art, Miami University

Art historian Ann Barrott Wicks will explain the historical context and philosophical ideas underlying the work chosen for the exhibition of Chinese art at the Art Museum on view through June 27. She will highlight specific works from the show, recounting the surprising circumstances surrounding the acquisition and identification of some of the paintings.

 Tuesday, February 10, 2015 6:00 p.m.

A Celebration of Diversity/Reception

The Art Museum Student Organization (AMSO) will host a reception to welcome international students prior to a gallery talk at 7 p.m. highlighting the capstone exhibition Figures in a Garden: The Ideal World in Chinese Art.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 7:00 p.m.

Symbols and Meaning in Chinese Art


Abbigail Crawford
Alexandra Czajkowski
Naren Gao
Delaney Lee
Jim McClanahan
Wilson Pittman
Danielle Riggs
Gabrielle Turner
Dr. Ann Barrott Wicks

What is it like to work on a museum show? Hear eight senior art history majors discuss favorite experiences from theirCapstone exhibition, Figures in a Garden: The Ideal World in Chinese Art. The audience will have an opportunity to look and ask questions about individual objects and works in the gallery as well.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 7:00 p.m.

The Jade Dragons of Hongshan

Professor Guanglin Tian, Liaoning Normal University, Dalian, Liaoning Province, China

An exploration of excavations in Liaoning Province associated with the Neolithic Hongshan Culture dating from approximately 4,700-2,900 B.C.E. Discoveries include a unique ancient temple complex with stone platforms and painted murals, monumental clay figures, and the earliest representations of the dragon in Chinese art.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 6:00 p.m.


Co-sponsored by the Confucius Institute

Faculty, staff and students are invited to join us for a reception to welcome Professor Tian prior to his presentation.