Monday, May 12, 2014
--> I realized, working on this project, how lazy I have become, posting my little bursts of creativity to the social networking site, rather than the blog. There is the immediate reward of a few likes with just a minute or two. But the post fade into oblivion just as rapidly. I want to do a better job of putting things here, where they are still accessible in a week, or next month.
Wore duds that were short of Art Deco.
The vital motif
Was bee sting relief
So of Vogue, he was willing to let go.
Esteems smog, but I won’t play along.
He’s been breathing that haze
And he’s singing its praise
But dang, Zhang Zhaozhong, how wrong!
Thursday, December 20, 2012
On Saturday, I celebrated my birthday with a visit to the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture, and took along my wife and my father. I try to get this museum as often as their exhibitions change, and Near and Far: Landscapes by Japanese Artists. Rotation 1: Imagination of Nature closes December 22. Its companion, Near and Far: Landscapes by Japanese Artists. Rotation 2: Idealization of Reality, opens January 6.
We arrived just a few minutes past 1:00 pm on Saturday, just a little late to catch the beginning of the weekly docent tour. Our three doubled the audience to six as Sonja Simonis, curator of this exhibit, talked about the individual artists, the 29 landscapes on display, and the represented traditions and influences, especially as the Japanese adapted what they learned from the Chinese. The Clark Center invites young scholars for assistant curatorial internships, and Simonis is the 18th intern in thirteen years. She told me she did most of her studies in Berlin, but researched her thesis in Japan.
The collection goes back into the 15th Century, and some of the commentary refers back to about the 10th. Several traditions are represented: Zen priests who painted as a path to enlightenment; Daoists who painted as a path back to nature and tranquility; bunjin, or literati, men of letters who painted as a pastime and to share with their friends; and professional painters who decorated castles for the Shoguns and Daimyo.
One of the oldest pieces, Mountains by a River, is attributed to Kenkō Shōkei (active about 1478-1506), a Zen priest who studied paintings from Song and Yuan China. In the Zen tradition, landscape paintings—usually of fictitious locations—served as meditative devises.
|Detail from Mountains by a River, a matching pair of hanging scrolls, attributed to Kenkō Shōkei. Ink and color on paper.|
|Winter Landscape (above), with detail (below), by Kanō Tan’yū (1602-1674).|
|Itaya Keishū (1729-1797), Priest Looking out into a Snow-covered Landscape, hanging scroll, colors on silk.|
|Detail from, Priest Looking out into a Snow-covered Landscape.|
When I looked closely at Landscape after Dong Yuan, by Nakabayashi Chikutō (who predates the opening of Japan), I was struck by its near-Pointillism, a technique I associate with late 19th Century, European Impressionists.
|Landscape after Dong Yuan, by Nakabayashi Chikutō (1776-1853).|
Nakabayashi served as a Nanga theorist, painting and writing in Kyoto.
Mizuta Chikuho (1883-1958) taught painting and frequently served as a judge in art exhibitions. In Fairly Unsettled Weather (1928), a figure in a blue kimono looks out from the window, the painting’s only deviation from a shades-of-gray color scheme.
|Fairly Unsettled Weather (1928), with detail at right, by Mizuta Chikuho. Ink and light colors on paper.|
|Plum Blossom Library (1926), with detail at left, by Fukuda Kodōjin (1865-1944). Ink and colors on silk.|
Spring breezes fluttering the lapels of my robe.
With just this peace my desire is fulfilled, while the world’s affairs leave me at odds.
White haired but not yet passed on,
These green mountains a good place to take my bones.
Who understands that this happiness today lies simply in tranquility of life?
(trans. Jonathan Chaves)
Color and detail also attracted me to Komuro Suiun’s Mount Hōrai. A contemporary of Kodojin, and another Daoist painter of the Nanga School, this painting pictures the palace of the Daoist Eight Immortals, who live in a place without pain or sorrow. Near the inscription, a flock of crains symbolize luck and long life.
Mount Hōrai, with detail on right, by Komuro Suiun (1874-1945).
|Twenty-four feet from the 72-foot long of Hekiba Village, by Araki Minol.|
|Detail from Hekiba Village, by Araki Minol.|
In this video, I attempt to catch the sweep of Hekiba Village.
One final thought: Beside the art gallery, the Clark Center has a bonsai garden, and this has recently been redesigned to better show-off the collection.
(My review of a previous exhibition at the Clark)
Saturday, December 15, 2012
I took this picture during a school lockdown in 1994. In Colombia, unidentified soldiers had stepped out of the jungle within a mile of the school, so we locked down until we could be sure for whom those soldiers fought. My junior high students sat for two hours before the all-clear, joking nervously and missing lunch. But we were in a war zone, where one understands, at least intellectually, that violence is a possibility.
In California, I once locked down with 4th graders while a funnel cloud passed us by. Before terrified ten-year-olds, the teacher must be strong, even casual about the situation, and compartmentalized. But now, even during our school’s annual lockdown drill, I have to stop and consciously gain control over the catch in my voice.
So it is good that I first saw news of the Sandy Hook shooting while I was alone in my classroom during lunch. As a teacher, a parent, a grandparent, I cried. Then I compartmentalized, taught my afternoon classes, and went home to let my four and six-year old grandsons present me with an early-birthday batch of raisin cookies. Today, I will celebrate that 63rd birthday with a museum trip, and intellectualize.
The violence is common enough—even in elementary schools and movie theaters—that we have rituals for dealing with it.
One group of us divides into Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun factions. That is a debate we ought to have, though probably less driven by the most immediate atrocity. Prudence and self-defense may require that some citizens keep guns, but from scripture I draw the principle that trust in weapons is misplaced (Isaiah 31:1 and 2:7), and the glorification of weapons is idolatry. I waver over where to draw the legal lines on guns, but as a nation we trust and glorify them, and there the lines should be at zero.
Another group points to lack of mental health, to the breakdown of the family, to a culture of violent video games, and to hopeless poverty. Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Every year I see students who are in need of better help than the schools are equipped to handle. I see boys, especially, trying to understand manhood when they have no fathers with whom to relate. This very week, I had several boys excited to show me videos that glorified lone attackers who vanquished large armies. And I just heard the verdict on a shooting a few years ago in the park around the corner from where I live. A lone gunman sprayed bullets into a pick-up soccer game, wounding one player. Charged with 10 counts of attempted murder, he received 500-years-to-life. The shooter was 16. Fatherless. Without a DREAM Act, he was also a boy without a country, no hope of ever belonging anywhere. Except to a street gang.
But to cope with this, we compartmentalize. We intellectualize. We blame-shift. We look the other way that our drones are killing children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We try and hide the fact that, each year, a million American children are denied even a day of birth. We flee from the knowledge that the stores we frequent support firetrap-sweatshops in Asia or Latin America, and that the chocolate we eat was harvested by child slaves in Africa. We have met the evil, and it is us.
Psychically we cannot carry these burdens, individually, or as a people. It is too heavy. We try to imagine ourselves standing in the way of all this, correcting it, or even absolving ourselves of our complicity in any of this, and we can’t. It is too overwhelming.
But it is not too heavy for God.
And God hears our cries.
I am driven this morning to read Daniel 9:4-19, and to use his prayer as my model.
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 6 Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.
7 “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. 8 Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; 10 nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. 11 Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. 12 Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.
15 “And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. 16 O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. 17 So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
Saturday, December 01, 2012
|My future wife and my mother, seeing me off at LAX as my trip began, September, 1972.|
|Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, where I did spend some time. Photo by Alex S at en.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons|
|Golgotha, the Garden Tomb, or "Gordon's Calvary," which I did not know to look at when I was at the bus station. Photo by Footballkickit at en.wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons|
|Archaeological diggings at Jericho, which I did not get to see. Photo by By Abraham at pl.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons|
|Map based on http://wikimapia.org/#lat=31.8451463&lon=35.5019931&z=15&l=0&m=b|
|Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, at Qasr al Yahud, photo by צילום:דר' אבישי טייכר, via Wikimedia Commons|
In the meantime, I pray for Peace in Israel. I once rode with the Israeli army.