Wednesday, December 15, 2021

When Harvest Gives You Rice Straw...

 It seems that the Japanese create art from so many mundane items. I recall when my Japanese friend and her mother were visiting. Small bits of paper from little throwaways like candy or gum wrappers would be folded into origami cranes. I was thinking of that when I saw the pictures of the Japanese rice harvest festival. 

As with so many countries, the harvests throughout Japan are very large celebrations. It can be likened to our Thanksgiving. A bountiful harvest means all will be fed - a real cause for celebrating and thankfulness.


One particular part of the rice harvest celebration is spectacular. In Northern Japan they turn the leavings, the rice straw (or "mara" in Japanese), into these enormous sculptures of animals and mythical creatures.



Whereas mara once was used for tatami mats, animal feed or plowed under, those uses were no longer necessary. What to do? Beginning in 2008, a collaboration between the city of Niigata and university design students led to the rice straw sculptures. (The requirements are that the sculptures be made entirely of the rice straw supported by wooden frames. )


These sculptures can be as tall as 30 feet. You can see the relative size from the images of the sculptures with people. They are so awe inspiring that it has become a huge tourist attraction.


If you are planning a trip to Japan, be sure to make sure the dates fall during this amazing celebration.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Let the Rains Fall - Caillebotte, VanGogh, Turner, Yee, Magritte, Richter, Malobabic

In keeping with our Pacific NW menopausal weather, yesterday it rained hard all day. Yet today, it is sunny and relatively warm. However, the general trend this time of year is cold, gloomy and rainy. It was with that picture in mind I thought it would be fun to look at how artists have featured rain in their paintings.

First and most famous for his painting of a rainy day is Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) His "Paris Street, Rainy Day," is taught in Art History classes for the classic that it is. (Dear Reader: Take heart as we stray away from such limitations.)


Another well-known artist of the same period was Van Gogh(1853-1890) This particular painting has the fascinating title of "Rain."

In the same 19th Century, we have J.M.W. Turner's (1775-1851) depiction of a train hurtling across a bridge in a storm. The title is, "Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway."


Stepping into the 20th Century, we move to Asian Chiang Yee, (1903-1977) who was a painter, poet and calligrapher. This is one of his works from "The Silent Traveller in London."

We now leap to the surreal through the works of Rene Magritte (1898-1967). It's a stretch for the rain subject, but it is in keeping with the surreal or dream state with his painting "Golgonda." (It's a city in India and I welcome more information on the painting from Magritte fans of this rain of men in bowlers.)

Now, we're in present-day artists representations of rain. The first is renown visual artist, Gerhard Richter (1932-), who at age 89 is considered one of the important German contemporary artists. This is his  "Rain (1)."

 Lastly, we return to a rainy day scene from a contemporary artist, Dusan Malobabic (1991?-), an Aussie, who often uses a palette to create this wonderful rainy day scenes in a Impressionistic manner.


The question is: Of those shown here, which reminds you most of the feelings of rain?