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No.182 (2/25/11)

Arts of Aomori

By Naomi K.
Guest Writer (Translated by Nao H. Kauffman)

The fifth anniversary special exhibition at Aomori Museum of Art, “Arts of Aomori” is being held from January 22 through March 21, 2011. The exhibition is composed of five unique themes as below.
1. Forest -- Print Art and Foal Art
2. Clay -- Jomon (straw rope pattern) and Painters of Mother Earth
3. Face and Soul/Spirit -- Self-Conscious and Critical Mind
4. Snow, Sky, Fire -- Colors and Lights of Aomori
5. Living in the Ocean -- Climate and Delusionz

First, the local folk handcrafts will catch your eyes instantly. For example, Tsugaru Kogin Sashi is embroidery from the northwest of Aomori and the Nanbu Hishi Zashi is from the south of Aomori. The fine embroidery on hemp fabrics were particularly common back then because domain duties banned the use of cotton. “Date Gera” like a coat, was very useful for the rain or snow but also fashionable at that time. These were usually made from bark or seaweed and crafted by men in order to send as special gifts to women in contrary to women’s embellish fabrics with embroidery. Many handcrafts from the Edo period (1600's - 1860's) to the Showa period (1926 - 1989) are also displayed.

The most appealing attraction of the first theme will be the artwork of Shikou Munakata (1903-1975), who gained world recognition as the maestro of print art in the 20th Century. Literally, print art is called Hanga(版画)in Japanese Kanji. He termed Hanga (板画) as he made wood pieces come to life. Since his early years, he was inspired by Van Gogh and was in pursuit of becoming a great artist like Van Gogh. However, he gave up painting because of his poor eye sight and worked at print art instead. In this way, he had trouble engraving without bending over as he almost touched the wood board with his glasses. His art work often included letters and had the characteristics of practically using wood grain and bold engraving. During the time of World War II, he evacuated to Toyama City and was greatly influenced by Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. As a result, most known works were derived from the Buddhism religion. His major artwork, Ten Apprentices of Shaka is on exhibit.

Next, the works of Junichiro Sekino, who was influenced by American Indian art; for example, the totem pole in Manhattan, NYC, are also available at this corner.
Dry vegetation, snowy winter, and the beautiful spring arrival, the seasonal transiton is the most moving moment in Aomori. This corner mainly introduces historical archeological finds from excavation activities before the museum’s construction. Moreover, the clay dolls from various regions of Aomori and the oil paintings related to clay clearly reflect the times.

Then, when you move onto the third theme, you will find some artworks including the first and second themes’, which are now more focused on face. Additionally, the artworks by Nancy Seki (1962-2002), which potentially included humor and sarcasm, were unique print art by engraving erasers. Her simple and naturalistic description is one of a kind and differs from any images written by pen.
The smaller art is about 3x3cm whereas the larger art is a masterpiece bigger than 50cm. Engraving the image of Japanese celebrities and self-portrait by cutter is her distinctive style and technique.

Further as you move to the next theme, you will find the authentic Aomori art. Blue and white are the colors of Aomori’s winter. Vivid blaze color mean the summer of Neputa/Nebuta. Vivid rouge looks really sharp with darkness. These strongly express fierce sprit and vibrant atmosphere. Lights and colors of the northland appeal to observers’ instinct and sensitivity. Looking up at the gigantic Neputa artwork is definitely astonishing!

Lastly, you would deeply explore about Aomori now and then. Aomori is surrounded by the ocean. The ocean has been the essence of Aomori life; what is more, it has been vital of traffic and co/mmerce for ship trading. Full colored print art related to the ocean and the enormous print art (182.3x3689 cm) created by the disabled students from Hachinohe City are displayed. Visitors will definitely enjoy and feel the students' passion and their teachers' enthusiasm. The well known, Hayao Miyazaki, director of studio GHIBLI, was affected by the artwork and was inspired to produce “Kiki's Delivery Service.”

Beyond that, at the permanent exhibit, more artworks by Shikou Munakata and the famous photography, Shuji Terayama from Misawa are also available.

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