Saturday, November 28, 2009


Sculptures from Landfill Trash, Washington Post
I must admit that I am a bit of a... collector. Okay, I'm a pack rat. Not as bad as some people, but I have my stash of stuff in two junk closets and at least three junk drawers. All this accumulation took a grand total of three years. I had cleared out all the junk when I moved, vowing (really really truly to the bottom of my heart vowing) to never again clutter my life with needless things. Do I really need four "antique" chess sets? But, they're collectibles, so it's justified. What about all the old cell phones from Japan? I can't even charge the battery on them, but there are some pictures I took while there, so I couldn't possibly toss them out. And, my old Macs from the '90s... I could network them all and have them run old programs or maybe build some kind of super robot from the parts... sometime in the future, after I take some robotics classes..... okay, hopeless, hopeless, hopeless. But there seems to be so much potential in things. I could always repair the broken fan or disassemble it, save the parts, maybe use it for a... sculpture.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Devouring the Self

Soga Shohaku, Japanese (1730–1781), Shoki Ensnaring a Demon in a Spider Web, 18th century, Japan, Edo period, Two-fold screen; ink on paper, Kimbell Art Museum

I had an experiment once where we were supposed to catch and observe a spider. The purpose was to learn about the life-cycle of the spider. Oddly enough, I couldn't find even one spider that entire week while all of my classmates found spiders of all sizes. Maybe I wasn't looking very hard. The night before I was to bring the spider to class, I found a teeny tiny one crawling on the wall and put it in a jar. The next morning I found a slightly bigger one and thought I should catch it as well since the first one was so tiny and so insignificant-looking. Naturally I stuck it in the same jar. At first they did not notice each other. Suddenly, the big one lurched forward, stunned the little one, and cannibalized it. It was a little disturbing. Likewise, if we are not careful, our passions, large and bold, can consume our more quiet and calm natures, completely devouring our sanity.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Gustave Dore, A Couple and Two Children Sleeping on a London Bridge

Human beings have very short memories. If it were not for recorded history, we would be entirely lost and real events would become myths, fairy tales, and legend. Recorded history, however, is only possible with a written language. And, writing is made up of symbols. All these things developed only very recently in the entire history of this earth, mere blips on the evolutionary time line. But, our days are spent almost entirely in abstraction. In a very short period of time, we have moved from being physical beings hunting for prey and gathering food to farming (still a very physical endeavor) to a mostly sedentary lifestyle, reading, writing, playing music, doing art, investing in business, operating in a money-based economy... all abstract concepts. Think about it... reading, writing, music, and art are entirely intellectual pursuits. Business, investing, real estate, all forms of money transactions are abstractions, speculations in future potential profit... all of which requires thinking beyond the next meal, planning ahead and seeing a future beyond next week, a sort of optimism and security. But, for those living in poverty, in crime-ridden urban blight, security is not a given. Below the surface of everyday life is the fear of violent death, starvation, disease. In such circumstances, how is it possible to see beyond next week? Are we not then dooming humanity to a dismally barbaric and violent future by ignoring these areas of urban blight?

Monday, November 16, 2009


Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

I love going to used book stores. Sadly, there is only one decent one close by... maybe on the entire island? One of my favorites is in Berkeley, CA, Moe's Books. It's been years since I've been there, but I love wandering through the aisles and aisles of books. For my birthday one year, I bought myself a reprint of Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. It is still a joy to peruse. It is sad that even though we have books by the millions these days, it is a rarity to find beautiful books. True, we shouldn't judge a book by it covers or even by the pretty pictures and beautiful lettering....but they sure are nice to look at!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Get Lost

View of Diamond Head from Makiki Heights

I was feeling a bit down the other day and when I do, I get in my car and drive. Probably that is not a good thing to do, but I like getting lost. Since this is an island, you would think that would not be possible. And though I've been living here nigh on a decade, there are many places I've never seen. It just goes to show how much of a place we don't really know because we are constantly going to the same places day after day... eating the same things for lunch, ordering the same meals at restaurants, buying the same colors when shopping for clothes... definitely we are creatures of habit, too easily we become complacent. There is a road that I can see from my place on the side of the hill with a few scattered houses and I have seen it many times, but had never actually driven up that hill. So, I decided to find it. Of course, there are maps nowadays... and I have google maps on my phone... I could have looked it up, but I think it destroys the spirit of wandering, even if it is in a car. And besides, how difficult could it possibly be? I think I must have driven down every street in the vicinity, hit a bunch of dead ends at the foothills, got turned around. I doubled back to the area where I suspected the road might start, realized that the road forked at that point and that I had taken the wrong path. Finally, I was rewarded with an amazing view of the entire city below me and a dense jungle around me. Life should be like that. We see where we want to be, we head towards it, sometimes without a map, and when we get there it is more beautiful than we ever could have thought possible. I guess the trick is recognizing where it is we want to go.... in my opinion, it actually helps to get lost.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Self (haiku)

In dreaming, we cease.
Both self and ego perish.
Yet, we wake to die.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Human Nature (haiku)

Hell's misery
And Heaven's ecstasies both
Within us reside.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Elephant in the Room

Reflections by E. Cheung

Speaking of which... nudes. Why do I get the embarrassed looks, the shuttle-my-children-away-from-this-crazy-woman reactions, the ignore-the-elephant-in-the-room? I've decided I don't like inviting people to my home anymore (I don't mean my friends, of course), but I mean acquaintances.... people that presuppose everyone is like themselves or else they're a bit off. For example, I have one of my nudes hanging in my living room. It's quite large (4 feet by 5 feet). It's there. So, I've gotten the "I'm just going to ignore it for the next two hours over dinner" or the furtive glance followed by a nervous laugh. As if it were something I were embarrassed about! Painting people is a pleasure for me. I see no shame in it. I love capturing the way the light falls on skin, the expression of contemplation that can only come from sitting still for hours on end, the individuality of the sitter that comes out in each work, the settling of the muscles... it's all so much better in life. Why do people have to interject their insecurities about their bodies and sex into it all? We all enjoy being nude when alone, don't we? Yet, to openly admire someone's physique or a sensuous sculpture or a painting of a nude is wrong? And, of course, one shouldn't hang up nudes in their living room... yes?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nudes.... Oh My!

Michelangelo's David

I stumbled upon a very good blog post yesterday by one of my readers, Valentino Valente, a photographer of male nudes. Here's the post. In it, he touches on many issues, namely the taboo of the male nude... as he points out, when we think of nudes, we tend to think of females only, as males are considered pornographic, particularly when shown with frontal nudity. I guess this strikes a chord with me since when I first started out painting nudes, I thought the same thing, but also in the sense that perhaps the prevalence of female nudes in art is because most artists in the past were males. Therefore, they chose to paint females. Also, the female form is supple and sensuous and because of the roundness of form, quite naturally easy to represent, whereas males tend to have more angles, muscles, and length (which makes it interesting in a completely different way, but more difficult to capture in painting). Actually, there was a painting I saw once... can't remember where, I want to say at the Honolulu Academy, but I'm not certain... that depicts a life drawing session with the model and artists in the room. The nude had a cloth sack over her head to hide her identity. Apparently this was the practice of the day; it was considered improper to be nude... yet as far as I can tell, there is nothing like painting from life. Yet, to have nudes exhibited at all these days is an impossibility. No public place here will touch them, often shows specifically prohibit them, in particular frontal nudity, both male and female. But, again, this may be a consequence of geography... for instance, no one would consider Michelangelo's David to be pornographic.

Monday, November 2, 2009

For Eskimo Monk

This is for Eskimo Monk... my comment is just too long (comment to a comment for Le Mouton)
Thanks for your input. You touched on many topics worthy of discussion... maybe even a whole book.

I think we (human society) are on the brink of something really big. We had a discussion the other day about the future of book publishing. Right now, there are the obvious paths to getting ideas out there... namely via books and printed media. But, one has to admit that books will soon be a thing of the past (devices such as the Kindle or Apple's rumored tablet)... soon all education will be through electronic media. Ideas already flow freely... to publish an idea or a "book" all one needs is to blog! And, it is put out there. Authors are no longer restricted by publisher's budgets and whims.... which brings me to your observation about the shifting economy and technology. Unfortunately, technology also leaves much to criticize. It can lead to mass production of art and music and so ultimately lead to the death of unique cultures such as can only develop in isolation (remember how much more interesting Europe was before the euro?). and like you said, musicians now spend so much more time trying to line up work than in performing. Sadly, I believe this is a consequence of our society and its mistaken belief in the irrelevance of music and art. In American society today, art, music, and other intellectual pursuits are seen as mere hobbies. Children are given music and art lessons so that they will NOT become musicians and artists; the usual intention is to round out their education so they can get into a good private school and eventually into a good college so they can become doctors and lawyers. Even in universities, professors in the liberal arts are not paid as highly as professors in the sciences. All of this is due to market forces and capitalism, which is our great misfortune. But... I digress...

Much can be said to criticize academia, but I hold firm to the belief in higher education. Reading and discussing and writing about topics/literature/science/human knowledge in college opens up many paths unseen and allows a person to grow intellectually... this is somewhat difficult to do in a work setting where there are always deadlines and minutiae to fill every waking moment of one's lives. As I said in the previous comment, I do not have a degree in art, did not undergo the constant critiques... I, for one, have probably too fragile an ego to survive it! Still, the world is forever cruel and judgmental... perhaps there is some good in it?

So... ultimately where does this leave us? Modern beings see art as an end in itself, as an expression of individuality. And so by that thinking, art is for everyone to pursue... BUT, (and this is my opinion) I believe that one can never truly express oneself freely unless they have learned the basics... just as one could never compose a symphony without first learning do-re-me.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Digital control for Japanese toilet

I was suddenly reminded of my first day in Japan when I caught the scent of lavender soap. I remember that day as if it were yesterday even though it was four years ago. It was January and I arrived in the evening, a cold wind was blowing through the city. I took the limousine bus to the hotel (it's just a bus, but the Japanese have this way of naming everything in a grand manner, such as a regular apartment is not just an apartment, but a "mansion"). The staff were incomparably polite, but they simply will not take tips; it's a matter of professional pride. My room was beautiful... it was serene, yet modern, and the beds... if I had beds like that, I'd never leave my room. What reminded me of this day... oh, yes, the lavender soap. Why? There were designer lavender soaps in the bathroom. Oh, and the bathroom...To this day, I've never been in a nicer bathroom. There is something to be said for a toilet that is warmed and plays music and has a shower function. It has to be experienced... I remember thinking, as I relaxed in the deep tub with the scent of lavender permeating the air, no matter what happens in this next year, nothing could ever go so terribly wrong in a place with such attention to bathrooms.... of course, I was ever so mistaken, but well... we can always start our journeys with hope, can we not?