Teacher Edward Fosmire Makes Art Come Alive With Ancient Artifacts

Edward Fosmire’s collection of artifacts spans milenia. / Jorge Campos / el Don

By Jorge Campos

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]taring at the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun, a little boy is in awe. His curiosity takes hold of him. An afternoon trip he didn’t want any part of turned into the best day of his life.

The boy, Edward Fosmire, knew he wanted to dedicate his life to the study of art.

“I became fascinated with history and these amazing creations made so long ago,” Fosmire said.

He began taking art and history classes to expand his knowledge of the subject. Before he knew it, he was on his way to becoming a college professor.

“From watching my own professors in how passionate and inspiring they were, I knew I could do the same,” Fosmire said.

Fosmire began teaching at Santa Ana College in 1995. He has also taught classes at Golden West College and Chapman University. But after 20 years of teaching part time, he is now the most recent addition to the art department.

“He’s an expert in Asian art,” SAC President Erlinda Martinez said. “He brought a beautiful portfolio to the institution, working with the Bowers Museum and other cultural centers.”

Fosmire has trekked around Asia to study and observe ancient art. Viewing pieces in their original setting helps you appreciate the art more than in an exhibit, he said.

“I like to know how it looked when the sculptors sculpted, and how the painters painted,” Fosmire said.

On his most recent trips, he has been to India and China. He likes to bring back artifacts to present to his classes as aids to his lesson plans.

“I like to teach with actual objects. I try to make it more interesting, make it come alive to my students,” Fosmire said. “Without them history is a little boring.”

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From his last trip to India, he brought back a small statue of the goddess Shiva. He showed it in his lecture on molded or cast art. He also shared an engraved piece called a bronze ritual vessel from China. The vessel is about 4,000 years old and was used to present offerings to deceased ancestors.

The most interesting and expensive piece he has shown is a human skull from Tibet. The skull is engraved with animalistic demon-like figures and is studded with jewels, simulating a crown. He estimates it could sell for around $20,000 on the open market.

“You can imagine that there aren’t many of these out there. Mostly it was used for rituals. They usually only wanted the skulls of criminals or children,” Fosmire said.

It is believed these rituals needed skulls of people who did bad deeds or had something bad happen to them in order to summon the spirits. The common practice was to use the skulls of murderers or children born out of incestuous relations.

Students really take to his teaching style and curriculum, with deeper understanding coming from seeing things rather than being told about them.

“He is really thorough. His lectures are really interesting,” SAC student Tran Le said. “I feel like I have learned more with him than any other professor I have had.”

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