Ronald Otsuka, the DAM's Dr. Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian Art, started at the Denver Art Museum in 1973, and this month he retires.
He has been my partner in many projects over the last 20 years. I‘m the educator who works with the Asian art collection. In addition to being a renowned Asian art expert, as his museum colleagues may know, Ron has some slightly hidden sides. He has an amazing sensitivity to the objects in the Asian art collection. I think he is the best I have ever seen at the perfect placement of objects in a case and at choosing colors for walls that help each object stand out in the best possible way.
He also is wonderful at ikebana, the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging. Check out the ikebana school that Ron practices. His often bold and surprising arrangements have been for many years a feature at the Denver Home Show.
His sense of humor is subtle and sometimes a little bit wicked. Some of my best memories include the time Ron (who has Japanese ancestry) took me for lunch on December 7, my birthday and the anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. In the 80s he was a fan of Dynasty, the tawdry prime-time soap opera. A photo well known to staff shows Ron and DAM staff posed one behind the other so that their arms imitate the dancing Shiva in our Indian art collection.
When I first took on the role of educator for our Asian art collection, Ron suggested I do two things I had never considered before. He asked me to take Japanese tea ceremony lessons and Sogetsu school ikebana lessons. Both of these traditional practices scared me to death. They are exacting, deeply involving, and very hard to master. While I never came even close to mastery, they changed the way I looked at art. For that I will be forever grateful to Ron Otsuka.