Friday, December 18, 2009

Fear and Cowardice

Francisco de Goya, Saturn Devouring His Son
J and I have been friends nearly a decade now, and I must say that is rare, at least for me. I had never given it much thought until the other day when she told me I was cowardly. Okay, I'm not good with criticism, but this one made me really think. She and I are quite alike oddly, even though we come from completely different lives. And she is maybe one of two (maybe?) people I trust not to blow smoke up my ass. She critiques my work frequently as well, gives me food for thought. Yes, cowardly.... hmmm... that, I've not heard before, but then again, our perception of ourselves is often different from another person's perception. She said I was cowardly because I often choose to not love people, to keep them at a distance for fear of.... betrayal?; even with her, it took nearly five years before we were good friends, longer to completely trust that she would not... would not abandon me? I just figured I was a tad anti-social. In this era of instant love as portrayed in films and books, she admitted that she did not love her first husband even when she married him, but that it was only years later that she learned to love him. She said love is both a physical and an intellectual endeavor; physical love is obvious, but intellectual love can only come with time.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Body Image

Greg Brady as Johnny Bravo

The Greg Brady Project
I can't seem to get Fumie Sasabuchi's work out of my head at the moment. It's not that it disturbs me, but it made me think of my time living in Los Angeles, before I ever really visited other places in the world (Las Vegas doesn't really count!!!). In my time living in West L.A., I have to tell you that almost everyone I met was in some way connected with the movie industry. For instance, nearly everyone had written a screenplay or was in the process of writing one. During my junior year, Jaleel White (aka Erkel) lived down the hall from me, and I used to pass Mayim Bialik (aka Blossom) on my way to class every day, and Danica McKellar (aka Winnie of the Wonder Years) was taking math classes down on the south campus. Add to this the proximity of the San Fernando Valley with its aspiring "stars" and you can begin to see how one's perspective might be a little skewed... I thought all women were blond skinny sticks with two melons... and faces that didn't move when they smiled or cried. At Starbucks, overheard a conversation between an agent and an aspiring "star":

Agent: Your breasts are too small. You're going to have to get them done.
Girl: Of course. Yes.
Agent: We'll foot the bill. I guess you'll do.

I guess she got the job...kinda reminds me of Greg Brady as Johnny Bravo... if the suit fits...

Friday, December 4, 2009


Expect not to keep
Life unmoved, unscathed through time.
The sole constant: change.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fumie Sasabuchi

I love the work of Fumie Sasabuchi. She studied at Tama University, located in a suburb of Tokyo called Hachioji. She currently shows at Galerie Zink which has three locations (New York, Munich, and Berlin). The reason I'm writing about her is that I greatly admire her work, but that I've stumbled upon other blog posts about her which say that she is a "he." Now, that's just sloppy research... I mean, first and foremost Fumie is a Japanese woman's name (pronounced Fu-mee-ay)... in the way that the name "Mary" is a woman's name without ambiguity, not like the name "Pat" which can be either male or female. She takes images from fashion magazines and reworks them. Death, beauty being skin-deep, the fragility of life itself are issues that she deals with. They are visually stunning pieces and really, I think speak for themselves.

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?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Suffering (haiku)

All encounters bear
Traces of sorrow, destined
To end in parting.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Medicine and Art

Print by Vesalius

For those of you lucky enough to be in Tokyo in December through March, visit the Mori Arts Center in Roppongi Hills. It is one of my favorite museums in the world. Back in 2005, I saw several wonderful exhibits including one with scale miniatures of several major cities including New York, Singapore, and Tokyo (at least a portion of it). Also, since the museum is perched at the top of the Roppongi Hills complex/high-rise, you can see miles and miles out over Tokyo. It was almost surreal to be looking at a miniature scale model in front of you (the model was so detailed that it even had the trees lining the avenue outside our apartment building) and then to look out the window and see the city itself as if in miniature. Their exhibitions are constantly changing and I wish I could be there for an upcoming exhibit on Medicine and Art. Looks really interesting... exploring the connection between our bodies, disease, and art. We owe credit to medicine and science for some of the most beautiful and intriguing works ever created. If you should go, just know I'm envious....take me with you!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Statue of A.E. Housman in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, England

I've struggled with spirituality and religion for most of my life. My family practiced Buddhism/Taoism to the degree that most Chinese families do. We prayed to our gods, burned incense to our dead, performed rituals to ward off evil. And had I been born in another time or place, perhaps I would never have questioned my beliefs. I knew nothing of Judeo/Christian traditions until one day in school we were asked to analyze a poem. When I look at the poem now, I think how clear the imagery is, but back then I had absolutely no clue; thus I embarked on an endless quest. Learning about religions, beliefs, and spirituality has been a rocky road; at times I wonder if it is all a farce. Yet it cannot be. We have a spirit...that is why we anticipate death. That is why we create, in order to leave a part of ourselves behind, to say we do exist, though it might be a dream after all. Here is the poem by A.E. Housman:

'Here the hangman stops his cart:
Now the best of friends must part.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads and I will die.

'Oh, at home had I but stayed
'Prenticed to my father's trade,
Had I stuck to plane and adze,
I had not been lost, my lads.

'Then I might have built perhaps
Gallows-trees for other chaps,
Never dangled on my own,
Had I but left ill alone.

'Now, you see, they hang me high,
And the people passing by
Stop to shake their fists and curse;
So 'tis come from ill to worse.

'Here hang I and right and left
Two poor fellows hang for theft
All the same's luck we prove,
Though the midmost hangs for love.

'Comradeds all, that stand and gaze,
Walk henceforth in other ways;
See my neck and save your own:
Comrades all, leave all alone.

'Make someday a decent end,
Shrewder fellows than your friend.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.'

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dear Diary...

Writing has always been therapeutic for me. I'm not a writer. There are real writers out there who have a way with words, their writing is capable of transporting you to places unimagined, allowing you to experience life through their eyes. As for me, I keep journals. Off and on since I was 12... which was an awfully long time ago. I have volumes filled with teenage angst, betrayals, secrets, loves, dreams... and long periods of complete silence. I think putting disjointed thoughts onto paper forces me to follow a line of reasoning, to flesh out a problem... maybe to argue myself out of my insecurities. It has helped me to grow as a person... maybe in a way, writing has allowed me to stop turning over phantoms in my head so that I can just let go. My journal is my companion, my most trusted, listening friend with whom I can be totally and completely naked and never fear judgment or a harsh word. To my dearest diary, I thank you for my sanity.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Le Mouton

Untitled, Richard Watson

There are many artists out there who advertise themselves as "self-taught" or "outsiders." There are several implications here. First, that their work is unaffected by dogma and is therefore better because it is more emotionally "pure." Second, that their skills as artists are natural talents endowed by nature or god and not by schooling. And, third, that "schooled" artists are elitists. To the first and second argument, if one is to look at art from a historical perspective, art, as with all endeavors, can never exist without influence from the past... that is, art has a linear progression; one can trace the influence of art forms of one period to another. For instance, the invention (or maybe discovery would be more accurate) of linear perspective led artists to draw and paint realistically, imitating nature, giving us artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Or, conversely, artists may rebel against academic painting and seek movement and light... and we have the Impressionists. Or, emotion might suddenly be of primary importance and we have the Expressionists...The point is that nothing comes from nothing. To the third argument... that "schooled" artists are elitists... this goes to the modern American culture of anti-intellectualism. In fact, you could say that this entire self-taught, outsider phenomenon is a form of anti-intellectualism. It's sort of like saying, one is proud to be ignorant, proud to spew obscenities, proud to be uninformed, proud to be led... proud to be sheep... which ironically is antithetical to what it means to be an artist.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time (Haiku)

Lend me your spirit.
Let us walk through gardens green
Heed not, seasons pass.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Playing god

K is my hero. He is a terrific artist and my mentor. I'd like to promote him here on my blog, but I kind of like him to remain anonymous. He does these wonderful night scenes, very Hopper-esque, yet uniquely his own. More than that, he is humble, insightful, and uncompromising when it comes to his art. A certain department store once asked him to produce a giclee of one of his paintings to sell at a silent auction for their grand opening. He politely refused and was a bit horrified that they could even suggest that... Once I asked K why he became an artist. He said he liked playing god.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chimps, Tools and Us

Cave Painting at Lascaux

I've been thinking of this for a long time, but have never put it to words. Why did people develop art in the first place? Why do we have a creative impulse? Initially, one would surmise that it is not a survival skill; the ability to draw something is not very useful during a hunt. But, what about the ability to create tools? Until recently, it was thought that people were the only beings that made tools (2007 Washington Post article, Chimps Seen Making Tools). The theory is that toolmaking was the primary skill that propelled the human species to "leap forward"... that it was this skill that led us as a species to where we are today... to cities, skyscrapers, cars, computers, etc. Toolmaking is a skill, but creativity is the source. (Interestingly enough, in the Washington Post article, it was the females that did the toolmaking; researchers believe that females are more creative than males...) So, when we think of "creativity" it should not have only the narrow definition that people give it today in the sense of imagination, but it should have a broader definition that includes the very act of bringing something into being, also innovation, seeing possibilities unseen... for instance, a branch is not just a branch, but could be a weapon, or a fishing pole, or an implement for writing. I once posed this question to a friend of mine and he said that maybe artistic skill (from an evolutionary standpoint) was a sexual trait in that it enhanced a potential mate's desirability. And so through the eons of human development, human beings self-selected this creative impulse. It's an interesting theory. This brings us back to the female/male question. If females are the creative ones, then it is the male who selects the most creative female... yet historically male artists greatly outnumber female artists. Does civilization so encumber women that their natural creative tendencies are stifled?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another Use for Pencils

My friend A, a fellow artist, lives in France. We tend to think of France as this idyllic romantic place, but as with all places, there are good and bad people. She was walking down the street, large handbag on her shoulder... where else to keep all the paper and pencils?... when suddenly a man on a motorbike grabbed her bag. Being the defiant (and eerily strong, I would say) person that she is, she held on. As she was being dragged down the street, she pulled out a sharp pencil, and stabbed the man in the hand. Bleeding profusely, he finally released her bag. She had a few scrapes, brushed herself off, and went home. There was nothing of value in her bag... just a few sketches...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Meditation (haiku)

Silvery veils
In meditative repose
Lift. Worlds unseen, seen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend?

By now, you must think I'm a zealot... but you see my point? Suppose you are thinking of marrying your sweetheart and want to purchase a diamond ring. Hopefully you do your research, go to a reputable jeweler, learn about the 4Cs... and after all is said and done, make an informed purchase... beautiful setting, beautiful cut... for your future wife. But suppose instead of doing all of the above, you simply, on a whim, walked into "X" Jewelers in a seedy part of town and said, I want that one; it's the biggest one... so the salesman boxes it up and you go home, present it to your fiancé, and she loves it, marries you and it's all roses and cake. But years later, she decides to get her ring cleaned and appraised for insurance purposes. The jeweler tells her that it's a poorly cut piece of crap with a big hunk of black carbon inside... your wife... she's a bit upset, but she loves you like mad, so it doesn't matter in the end... Still, though, wouldn't it have been better to do your research?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Art 101: Lesson 2, Greed

Gustave Dore, Inferno Canto 7, Pushing Rocks

Not all the gold that is beneath the moon,
Or ever hath been, of these toil-worn souls
Might purchase rest for one.
Canto VII., lines 65-67.

Money screws up the world. Money is potential... potential food, potential shelter, potential security... potential Louis Vuitton bag. People become fanatical in their pursuit of money because it represents their potential possessions. Perhaps they falsely believe that money buys happiness. They kill for it. They die for it. They start galleries in the H*lt*n in order to obtain it. I'm raving mad today... I passed by said gallery last night on the way to dinner (grumbling to myself about those damned giclees). One of their artists was sitting in the middle of the room, painting a small painting. A family was inside admiring the work on the wall. A salesman pitching. When there is an artist actually working on a painting in a gallery surrounded by giclees, what is the buying public to think but that those paintings on the wall, for sale, are all originals done by him? The galleries have these artist nights for this very reason... to draw people in, to make them think that those cheaply done "fine art prints" are actually originals... they are liars... they are deceitful... they are slick. For them, art is not art. Art is a business, nothing more. Avoid commercial galleries in tourist areas like the plague. And, not let possessions possess you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Insanity Revisited

Mona Lisa Through Glass

Whenever I visit a new city, I head for the art museum. In Chicago, I had the flu, walked 10 blocks in the blistering icy wind without a good winter coat just so that I could see Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte. In Washington D.C. it was Whistler's Peacock room and a small hidden Vermeer. At the Louvre, it was La Joconde... the Mona Lisa. I'm just a giddy tourist... as my fellow travelers will attest, I'm not very pleasant on museum outings. I'll lose people, guards will kindly tell me to step back from the painting!!!! I'll spend two hours staring at one work of art. With the Mona Lisa, I guess it was more the fame of the painting... and besides, who goes to the Louvre and doesn't see the Mona Lisa? As you may know, the Louvre is insanely huge and labyrinthine. And with my bad map-reading skills...and leaving it for the very end of the day just as the museum was closing... well, but, I can walk pretty fast, zipped by the Venus ... beautiful... should stop to ad..mire.. a Caravaggio... must keep going...up stairs... elevator too slow. And when I finally did get there, there was an insipid velvet rope with a million people there... so I took a deep breath, and admired two gorgeous da Vinci paintings not more than 20 meters from the Mona Lisa... all to myself. And, I saw the Mona Lisa too, from the side (it's behind glass)... as people are exiting... and the guards... eh, non!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bliss (haiku)

More I do not seek
Than to lay upon your breast
In eternal bliss.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Finding The One

Gustave Klimt, Danae

Love at first sight... it exists. My roommate in college once went to a lecture given by an enlightened Buddhist monk. His theory of life (and I'm not sure if all Buddhists believe this) was that we meet the same people in this life as in previous lives. He said that there are "threads" which connect us to one another and sometimes draw us together, even if temporarily. But most people cannot recognize the people they once knew because it is a special kind of knowledge. Maybe it can be likened to that feeling of knowing a person whom you have just met. Or maybe it is the concept of the kindred spirit or soul mate. This monk said that he was at the theater once and walking through the crowd he caught sight of a woman... they looked at each other, and in that instant he knew that she was his wife from a previous existence. Reluctantly, he let her walk away because in this life he was a monk. Can we not liken this to art? Sometimes, oddly, we see a piece and it is love at first sight. It invades our thoughts, gives us no peace... it speaks to us... requires that we possess it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Muse (haiku)

Fuels my obsession
Possesses my intellect
Destroys to create

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Art 101 at Walmart

Okay, I've been going on and on about giclees being terrible. Yesterday I was on updating my list of things I want to do and I happened upon a post about buying original art. There are people out there that truly want to support young, aspiring unknowns. They're willing to give them a chance and wanting that really interesting piece, yet they did not know where to start. So, how do we find young, up-and-coming artists? How can we buy original art? The first step is to educate yourself. This means learning the difference between an original and a giclee (pronounced JEE-clay). So, go to Walmart, Target, Costco, Pictures Plus... Frames 'R Us... your neighborhood frame store where they sell framed art. Pass by the obvious prints on paper and walk towards the paintings. They will look like oil paintings because oil paint was indeed used to print them. They will be on canvas, true canvas, same type that artists paint on. Now, look closer. There will be no brush strokes, it will seem almost too perfect. It will look "thin" because it is just a thin layer printed on. This giclee that you are staring at only costs maybe a few dollars to make. For an artist to have a giclee printed, let's say, just one giclee, may have cost maybe $20. Now look at the price tag... and faint... no, turn away in disgust. But, wait, this is supposed to be educational. Okay, now go visit your local art museum. Look at the paintings hanging on the walls. Note the texture, the depth of color (particularly in the darker areas), notice the sensitivity of the brush strokes or the boldness (depending on what you're looking at). Enjoy a nice leisurely day really looking at just one piece. It's not a waste of your day. Note the expression, the life. Now go back to Frames 'R Us. Look at the giclee again. See the difference now?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cultural Capital and the Honolulu Academy of Art

The Honolulu Academy of Art

The Honolulu Academy of Art... or rather, I think it should be called the Honolulu You're-Not-Welcome-Unless-You're-A-Wealthy-Old-Woman-Who-Thinks-She-Can-Buy-Culture Academy of Art. When I first moved to Honolulu a few years back, I actually liked going to the museum. The courtyards are beautiful. They have a nice Asia collection, and they even had a John Singer Sargeant.. quite gorgeous and reminiscent of my time in Boston. So, I joined as a member. Big mistake. I attended one of their "functions"... was just sitting at one of the tables, enjoying a quiet afternoon, when one of the women came up to me and said, "This is for members only. My stuttering reply (so shocked... why would they assume...?) was, I AM a member. She looks me up and down... oh, so, sorry. What a... Oh, I see.. I'm not dressed to the nines... You see, these women proclaim to support the arts yet fail to see that artists generally don't walk around town dripping with diamonds. I suppose, though, that these patrons of the arts never give it a second thought. As a friend of mine once said to me, they are a necessary evil. True, they possess no creativity, cannot produce culture, but they can buy it and in so doing, they support the arts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Going Digital...

So very reluctantly, I am going digital. It's not that I disagree totally with technology. In fact, I think it's great. And I'm the techie of the house. I can set up anything and everything around here. But, for art... I just don't know. I just don't get that thrill from doing digital art. With charcoal and pencil and paint it is so... sensual. Well, I found an old copy of Photoshop Elements lying around. It must be about three years old (I must have bought it back then thinking I would try my hand at digital stuff). Lots of dust on it... but anyway, I wanted to create a t-shirt for the RedBubble site. So, I pulled up one of my charcoal drawings. I thought skeletons would be the way to go since Halloween is coming up. Copied it onto Photoshop and bumbled my way around. After about two hours, I finally found the eraser function at the top of the screen... I think I must be digitally-challenged. After all is said and done, I think I did a decent job. **Pat myself on the back** And I just placed an order for one that I'm going to wear. I just want to see what it looks like.

Dark Tales

Vilhelm Pedersen, The Little Mermaid

I've been reading fairy tales again... I know, who reads that but little children? But, no, these are not the mouse-ears version, the happily ever after tales with the princess riding off into the sunset with the prince (who, incidentally never really talks in the movies). The original Andersen stories are dark and terrible with lots of mutilation and death. Cinderella's stepsister, for instance, hacks off her toes to try to fit into the glass slipper. Or take the Little Mermaid. In Andersen, she falls in love with the Prince, but the Prince marries another so on their wedding night, the little mermaid is supposed to kill the prince so that she can return to her mermaid life. But... she doesn't. She instead commits suicide by throwing herself into the water and is transformed into spirit. Yet, how many of us know THIS story? Do we all really need the happy ending? Is Andersen's telling just too dark? ARE we happier buying into the Disneyfied version of the world?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Heaven (haiku)

To tenderly hold
Hands withdrawn in modesty
Such would be heaven.

Monet or Rembrandt?

Claude Monet, Woman with a Parasol

Is she a Monet or a Rembrandt? I beg your pardon???? I can't quite remember the context of this conversation...except that I was simply trying to introduce a female friend of mine to my friend Joe. And this was Joe's question. Well, a painting by Monet when viewed from afar is quite stunning, but up close is a jumble, quite a mess. A Rembrandt is both beautiful up close and from far away. So... WAS she a Monet? Or WAS she a Rembrandt? Well, since I never did end up introducing her to my friend, I suppose she must have been a Monet.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kindred (haiku)

The world falls away
Time unnoticed, forgotten
Spent in whispered love.

Friendship haiku

Laughing together
Stories of our silly past
Treasured within us.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Seduction by E. Cheung

I just realized that I've lost all sense of modesty. I was uploading some nudes onto the RedBubble site and there is a check box for indicating if the image is safe for workplace viewing. I have yet to check the box... many of my drawings and paintings are nudes, but I don't think they are in any way "inappropriate." I must admit, though, that I've never really worked in an office environment and so don't really know what it is like. I really have no clue what it is that people do in offices. I imagine they do things on the computer, shuffle papers around? Answer phones? E-mail? Have meetings? I worked in a lab for my first real job. There was no dress code, no punching in, punching out.. just did the work whenever it was convenient for me... sometimes came in after hours. Come to think of it, if I got an office job tomorrow, I would have nothing to wear... maybe I would go in as an artistic nude.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

H G Wells

Ahhh... H G Wells. Now, there was a great person. If you have ever read Utopia or War of the Worlds, well, what more is there to say? He wrote about things that were inconceivable in his time. The machines, the cataloging of people in order to keep track of people in Utopia. And, of course the creatures from Mars... and how they died on Earth even with all their technology. They died from disease because they had no immunities to the diseases on Earth... much like Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, and Steel. But all the knowledge that we have today did not exist in his time. He was a genius, a futurist.

H.G. Wells: The Google Logo Mystery Is Finally Solved

H.G. Wells: The Google Logo Mystery Is Finally Solved

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Art and Soul

I am trying to detach myself from my art... no wait, what I mean is I'm trying to not get so attached to my work. I have the most horrible time letting go of my paintings. The day after I sell it, I want to refund the money and tell them it was all a mistake. The last time I was in a funk for about a month, couldn't sleep at night, sometimes I would cry thinking about how I would never see it again. I feel pretty stupid even saying that, but I did. And, I just don't like the idea of selling work as giclee. Then there would be endless, mass-produced, soul-less pieces floating around out there. It just seems wrong. I went into a gallery once to inquire about a particular painting. The saleswoman told me that the painting was an "original giclee." Isn't that a contradiction? She explained how oil paints were used in the process, that it was an oil on canvas... etc. etc. etc... but the truth of the matter is that giclees are simply copies printed onto canvas and then in some cases "touched up" in a few places by the artist (such as a daub of paint on the cloud), signed, and then sold for an obscene amount of money. The unknowing buyer who walks into the gallery thinks they are being sold an original and that some day it will be worth double what he paid. The reality is that it will be worth nothing because it came from nothing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


For a few months now I've been in a slump... Sketches that lead to
nothing, lots and lots of nothing. Lots and lots... Of nothing.
So... Maybe just need to let go of realism. To let go of trying to
make everything into something final and just let it be. Maybe this
is the pencil sketching era... Oil painting is so involved - the
oil, turpentine, cleaning -not to mention the cost. I started a
landscape last week, gorgeous rolling hills of yellow flowers in
some picturesque village... And it was so utterly uninspired that I
painted it out and threw a garbage truck onto it, literally...
Painted a garbage truck over the whole darn thing....Ick.. Such a
total waste. At least with sketches you don't have to feel so bad
about trashing it. Also thinking about putting a knife to work
that's been sitting around collecting dust. Clears the mind I think.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Visit to Byodoin

Buddha at Byodoin in Kaneohe, Hawaii

Yesterday I drove to Byōdōin to take a break from all the madness. It lies in the Valley of the Temples in Kaneohe. There were few people around so it was peaceful and contemplative. The temple itself is a replica of the one in Uji-shi, Japan. The Amida Buddha that sits inside the main hall is the work of sculptor Masuzo Inui, a descendant from a long line of carvers of iconic Buddhist statues. Covered in gold leaf with exquisite details on the mandorla, the statue is a tribute to the Buddha and to the ability of humankind to manipulate the physical world around them. Looking at the statue, you would be hard pressed to find who the artist was... in fact, it was from a xeroxed information sheet that I learned who the artist was... As with much of Buddhist art, the work is mostly anonymous; this is in stark contrast to modern art where the artist sometimes is more celebrated than the actual work (hence we have people who paint whales on the sides of buildings and then sell a giclee for thousands of dollars...). People seem to want to know the background of the artist, maybe buy into some romantic notion of a lone artist starving somewhere on the streets to be "discovered" and made famous overnight. It is as if the art buyer does not really trust his own tastes but needs some story to tell their friends. Maybe hanging up a piece of art is too revealing of a statement whereas buying a familiar image is safe... because then people can all be different by being the same.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Detail from a page of the Voynich MS

I have been studying the Voynich manuscript for some months now. There is a theory out there that perhaps this manuscript was the work of a mentally deranged individual. While the manuscript is in and of itself quite intriguing it is also interesting to find that so many people
would devote so much to scrutinizing it in the hopes of solving this most mysterious work. Human nature... We need to know the "why.". Why would someone expend so much creative energy to produce something so elusive and seemingly nonsensical? If indeed this were the product of an insane mind, then would not all of us possess such impulses but that we simply have control of our selves? Do we generally lock away such obsessive impulses so that we can exist in the normal world? What exactly drives creativity? Is it simply an unchecked passion artists allow to surface? Part of the manuscript's appeal is our inability to decipher it. I think it would lose much of its allure if suddenly we could read it. Such is the draw of art... The expression of the artist's psyche in material form to be endlessly interpreted, just slightly out of reach.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Art and Death

An artist friend of mine just suffered a massive stroke last week while visiting his family in New York. It brought to mind something that happened about ten years ago when I used to live in Boston. I was part of a calligraphy group that met once a week. I remember one day, one of the women told the group that they should go to a sale held by this particular artist... because the woman was dying... *ahem.*
So.... what to make of that. Of course we all know that the value of a piece of art is not in the materials. Yet, I find it disquieting that people could be so materialist, that they might simply look at art as an investment... as in a stock or a piece of real estate, or god forbid just something to go with the horrible yellow couch in the living room. I suppose I should not be so naive. People often are driven by greed (witness the current fight over universal health care). And part of the allure of the arts is that we believe that we might not have to deal with money. Yet, to be taken seriously as an artist, we must also possess a little bit of business sense. However, if we look beyond that rather callous remark about the dying artist, we could look at it in a more gentle light; that the value of a work of art increases in value simply because nothing more from this artist will ever be produced again. One might venture to say that it is the very individuality of a work that makes it valuable.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Robert Louis Stevenson

Hau Tree Lanai
I am re-reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. It has always been one of my favorite books... I think I first read it when I was 13 years old during summer break. Back then it was just a swashbuckling, fast read. But what struck me even back then were his descriptions of the land, of the fog, of the sand on the beach, and all that detail about the schooner. Of course, I had no inkling of anything of that sort... I lived in a little suburb in Los Angeles. And even though the ocean was but 20 miles away, it may as well have been 200 miles away. A landlubber to this day... ironic when I think of it, now that I live in Hawaii... and just today sat within a stone's throw from where Stevenson sat under the hau tree, listening to the sound of the ocean beating upon the sand. Maybe it was in such a place where stories wedge themselves in a writer's head to be born later. The vivid descriptions of the landing, the sea, the biscuits could only have come from having lived it. Is that not art? To take something real, perhaps even mundane, and to transform it into something eternal? One could argue that the ocean, the beaches, the sand... all those things inspire... yes, but only one of great imagination could take something we take for granted everyday and find something unique about it. The hau tree where he used to sit is now a place for enjoying a leisurely breakfast... go see it... Hau Tree Lanai off of Waikiki.