Pictures in Pictures

First off, I have had it in mind to create pictures inside of pictures since I began to make pictures in 1974. Sculpture, my first love, beginning in the late 60’s, has as it’s brief—presence. I continue this, to persue this brief, making sculpture as part of our Art Mind Park. The intro of the story… “About 90 Ojime” has the seed of this idea of picture in picture in picture. The Sagemono objects (below a lovely example), I am attracted to are exactly this. For example, this Inro object (a functional tiered box to hold medicine and seals) tells the story of the Silk Weaver and her lover. It contains first, a gorgeous layering of materials: ivory, abalone shell, gold and silk chord, inlaid on a boxwood case. “Woven” into this object is a story.

The winder depicted refers to the Weaver Star, who is tragically separated from her lover, the Cowherd Star by the Milky Way. The two are allowed to meet only once a year, a union that is the basis for Tanabata, or the Star Festival, in Japan, held annually sometime between July 7 and August 7. As is typical of the layering of Japanese art, these are stories nested in stories. So this object contains—seasonality, a geographic place, a still point for contemplation. The story of ther cow-herd and the weaver is well known as a time to have wishes granted. The wishes are written on papers hung from trees. At the G8 summit of 2008 Prime Minister Fukuda had the members write wishes hung from a ceremonial tree (he wished for attention to climate, Angela Merkle wished for colloquy). At Tokyo Disney World, Minnie and Mickey dress the parts, parading around the park for Tanabata as the weaver and the cow-herd.

Secondly, and closer to my roots is the Talmud, though only nominally, I’m a barely-observant Jew. This is essentially the Hebrew Bible exfoliated—in a series of commentaries inside of commentaries, but it’s the very look of the Talmud page that gave energy to my thinking about pictures in pictures.

Then thirdly, there is the Tibetan Thanka painting. These hang in meditation rooms as guided meditations on various nodes of Buddhist practice. Picture in picture, with proscribed chanting, the chants themselves are descriptions of the aspects of various dieties. As the monks chant, they are describing the picture in front of them as a kind of ekphrasis. Ekphrasis, as I’ve said, is a literary term describing a work of art. Here’s a picture of Manjurshri. I like thinking about this sword he wields as cutting through so much of the political BS we are afflicted with.

You sure get your money’s worth with a Tibetan Thanka.

Buddhists name Four Kinds of Nutriments: edible foods, sense impressions, volition, and consciousness. I like thinking of Art as a fifth kind of nutriment, though it’s always tricky to bring spiritual content into the Art content world. The main thrust of the Post-Modern movement was to peel away spiritual content from art, even though so much of what we call Art has as its core, the connective tissue of concerns with the mystery of being. Raise your hand if you have visited a cave or an overhang where there is “Rock Art.” Or seen Stonehenge live and in person. Or hiked up to a Romanesque cathedral circa 1050, empty but for three rows of cane-back chairs. Or gawked at a woodblock print by Yoshitoshi. Or marveled at Juan Gris’ painting called “The Open Window” and felt hit by a Mediterranean breeze. If being alive, is not a numinous mystery to you, then move along, buddy. I mean, the salmon have spawned and their fry are darting around in Paper Mill Creek. Saw ’em yesterday April 24, 2022.

Here are the first couple of my new “Picture in Picture” series.

Our Addiction to Color and Convienence is Killing Us 32″x 43″ Watercolor, Photographs of lighters and lids gleaned from Kehoe Beach, Point Reyes, NSS, surrounded by actual lighters and lids from same. 2022
“It’s the Air We Like Out Here,” say the Twins” 32″ X 43″ Watercolor and Wisteria Blossoms 2022

One thought on “Pictures in Pictures

  1. Pingback: The Spindle – 90:ojime

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