The Benevolent Guardian of the Boone Children’s Gallery

There’s a dragon in the newly reopened Boone Children’s Gallery—but don’t worry, it’s not the menacing fire-breathing type. Those dragons, feared for their destructive ways, are from Europe. This dragon is Korean, and while still a powerful mythological beast, he is, well… nice. Benevolent, kind, symbolic of kings and good luck… these are the traits associated with dragons from East Asia.

mural 3 

The Boone dragon was painted by a trio of artists (Andy Doherty, Kirsten Burton, and Pamela Starks) who studied LACMA’s Korean art collection and, like me, fell in love with a dragon who lives among the clouds (and, by the way, truly has eyelashes to die for) on a ceramic jar, on view just steps away in the Korean galleries.

Korea, probably Kwangju, South Cholla Province, Jar with Dragon and Clouds, Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), eighteenth century, purchased with museum funds

Korea, probably Kwangju, South Cholla Province, Jar with Dragon and Clouds, Joseon dynasty (1392–1910), eighteenth century, purchased with museum funds

The Boone’s auspicious animal is twenty feet long and oversees the new drop-in brush-painting studio where children, families, and even adults are invited to make art. The muralists’ design was first projected on the wall of the gallery using an old-fashioned overhead projector—the kind your science teacher used in junior high. They came in the middle of the night to work in peace and relative darkness, only to learn that the gallery was still well lit—making projecting a challenge—by the Hammer Building’s bright exterior lights shining in through the windows.

Pamela Starks adds to the mural

Pamela Starks adds to the mural

Little by little, as color and details were added, the composite creature came to life. And by composite, I mean that it takes nine animals to make a dragon. Here is the checklist: horns of a deer, head of a camel, ears of a cow, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, scales of a fish, claws of an eagle, paws of a tiger, and the eyes of a rabbit. And the eyes, by the way, are always painted last. With this final touch the dragon’s personality is revealed and it comes to life…

Karen Satzman, Manager, Art Classes and Family Programs

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