During the summer of 1994, ten master carvers from Papua New Guinea worked in residence to create a permanent outdoor sculpture garden of New Guinea Art.
For the participants, this collaboration was not an attempt to recreate a “traditional” New Guinea art/landscape environment, but rather an opportunity to experiment with, and reinterpret, New Guinea aesthetic perspectives within the new context of a western public art and landscape architectural project. This cross-cultural exchange promised to open challenging new territory for the artists to explore their aesthetic visions while simultaneously putting the artists in control of the representation and interpretation of their art works and culture.
Given the extended on-location carving, the project also created a unique opportunity for the Stanford community to interact personally with the artists and to develop an appreciation for the concerns, life experiences, and aesthetic interests that motivate their works. This cross-cultural artistic encounter was developed through on-site guided tours and discussions with the artists, New Guinea bark painting classes, a lecture series on New Guinea art and interpretative issues, and on-site musical performances. Through these interactions, it was hoped that a type of cross-cultural artistic experience not possible in the traditional western museum exhibitions of New Guinea art could be created; an experience that would rehumanize these arts and artists that have been consistently dehumanized by western images and stereotypes of the “primitive.”