Visiting certain areas of Japan is like taking a trip back in time. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is offering a look at the evolution of the kimono, the traditional Japanese garment, which will show how the textile arts of this item have changed over time and contributed to the development of graphic art in that country.
The Kimono Through the Ages
There are clues in many kimonos of their age and the purpose to which they were put. For example, the textiles used in mass production during the 20th century resulted in “department store kimonos” that became staple items of everyday wear. However, the 17th and 18th century versions worn by the samurai warrior class were sumptuous and signified the social status of the wearer. Since there is little difference in the shape of any two kimonos, textile types and patterns are used to determine the age and type of kimono in question.
The rising merchant classes during the Edo period of 1615-1868 contributed greatly to the change in kimono patterns and colors. In fact, there were even laws passed that restricted the colors that could be used in kimonos based on the class of the wearer.
However, the kimono continued to evolve, as most clothing did, and with the advent of the 20th century became a “common” garment. Even housewives could find affordable pieces in their local department stores.
The beautiful textile art of the Japanese is nowhere more evident than in the kimono. This timeless garment is usually made of silk and features a form of screen printing that goes back hundreds of years. This process has been used to make birds, flowers, butterflies, animals, warriors and even whimsical pictures on kimonos that spoke to the owner’s taste and sense of humor. Certain patterns have also become associated with certain groups. For example, flowers signified beauty and were often worn by young women, while bolder or more geometric patterns were more masculine and might be worn by a father or grandfather.
Kimono art is a fascinating study that offers a glimpse into the complex world of Japanese culture and follows the evolutionary pattern that this culture took over the course of centuries. By studying these beautiful pieces of clothing, we can find the reflections of many Japanese art forms in other media.
One of the world’s most astonishing sacred sites is found in the little town of Lalibela in Ethiopia. Blair Stover spotlights the eleven rock-hewn churches found here for both their stunning artistic value as well as impressive architectural achievements.
Although this duty, rural town just recently received electricity, it is on the radar of tourism due to these astounding churches. The town in is nestled into the rolling countryside. Gas stations and paved streets will not be found here, but neither will many motorized cars. As for the past several hundred years, this town goes about its business.
Yet this small town holds a stunning array of rock-hewn structures. Amazingly, these churches are carved entirely from a single block of granite. Rooftops of the churches are at ground level.
Originally, the town of Lalibela was known as Roha. King Lalibela, of the 12th century, renamed the town. He was also the leader who commissioned the remarkable churches. As a member of the Zagwe dynasty, they seized the Ethiopian throne near 1000 AD. As Lalibela’s rivals increased in power, he built the churches in his modest town to gain the powerful support of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
The churches were excavated rather than constructed. A trench was carved on all four sides of a planned church. From here, the interior was painstakingly chiseled out. The largest of the churches stands at 40 feet high. All work was completed with only hammers and chisels.
Life of this town is centered around religious ritual, involving regular processions, crowds of dancing and singing priests, and extensive fasts. More than one thousand of the town’s population (8,000-10,000) are priests. The biblical atmosphere is encouraged by the simplicity of this town’s life along with the beautiful religious atmosphere. Thus, these amazing churches have remained in continuous use since their creation.
For scholars of religion and architecture, these churches are a point that cannot be missed if you are in the area.
In March 1974, farmers digging for water near the city of Xian, China, stumbled upon one amazing archaeological discovery. Blair Stover looks into the history of this extraordinary find and the extraordinary aspects of this art and architectural find.
This area has had many exciting discoveries made in it. In this north-central province Shaanxi, a fragment of a warrior figure of the Terra Cotta Army of Qinshihuang was unearthed. Now, the Mausoleum has brought the area back on the map.
Located nearly 7.5 kilometers from Lintong County, the Mausoleum of Qinshihuang is found in Xian in Shaanix province. Its construction began upon the ruler’s ascendance of the throne in 246 BC. Over 39 years, 720,000 workers were employed upon the conquest of rival states. The project was supervised by Li Si minister of Qin. The project was halted when the capital was besieged by rebel troops in 208 BC.
The five peaks of Mt. Lishan screen the site of the Mausoleum. It is next to the slopes of Black Horse Mountain and south the Weihe River. This area is known now as Lintong County, just 18 miles from Xian. Traditional Chinese geomantic omens coincide with this location as an ideal place for emperor burials.
While no excavations have been done, it is stated in the records that the Mausoleum covers 56.25 square kilometers. It is recorded to be a Qin capital microcosmic replica. Resembling the imperial city, double rectangular walls originally surrounded the mound, housing gates at the four cardinal points.
While work is still being done to determine how best to uncover and preserve this site, the history behind it continues to fascinate.
The tallest Buddha stone statue in the world is known as Dafo, or The Giant Buddha of Leshan, China. It was carved in a cliff face by a monk in the 8th century. This statue is found in southern Szechuan province, overlooking the confluence of the Dadu, Minjiang, and Qingyi rivers. Thus, The Giant Buddha faces the sacred Mount Emei. Blair Stover notes that both The Giant Buddha of Leshan and Mount Emie share World Heritage Status.
In 713 AD, construction of the Giant Buddha began. The idea for the statue came from a monk named Haitong. It was his hope that Buddha would calm turbulent waters which plagued shipping vessels as hey travelled down the river.
Although his plans include the supernatural, they did not stop there. Because the huge amounts of rubble carved from the cliff were deposited in the river, the currents were altered and the waters were calmed.
Although strong currents still exist at the meeting of the three rivers, none of which threaten the tourist ferries. In 1996, UNESCO listed the area as a World Heritage Site. And what a site it remains. The statue stands 233 feet tall, making it the tallest Buddha in the world. He is 92 feet wide at the shoulders and can accommodate a seated person on his smallest toenail.
The seated Maitreya Buddha, hands resting on knees, is depicted in the statue. He gazes across the river with heavy-lidded eyes. Maitrey will be the future Buddha who appears to preach the dharma once the teachings of Guatama Buddha begin to fade away.
To this day Dafo stands, so be sure you take a trip to visit should you find yourself in that area of the world.
With the many meanings dreams hold in the Native American culture, Blair Stover looks into the legend of one of the more popular and widely known aspects of Native American culture in the U.S., the dream catcher.
The legend is told that a spider was spinning a web quietly in his own space beside the grandmother’s sleeping area. Day after day, she observed the spider. Her grandson entered and shouted upon noticing the spider. He started toward the spider to hit it with a shoe. The grandmother whispered for him not to hurt the spider.
After the grandson left, the spider thanked the old woman and offered her a gift for saving his life. He spun a silvery web in the window, explaining that each web snares bad dreams and only good dreams will make it through the small hole.
As an old tradition, a dream catcher was hung in the home. Native Americans believe that the air of the night is filled with both good and bad dreams. Once the dream catcher is hung, moving freely, it catches dreams which float by. Knowing their way, good dreams glide into the center hole, sliding down off of the soft feather gently down to a sleeper below. However, bad dreams do not know their way and become tangled in the webbing. This causes them to perish at the first light of the new day.
Placing a feather in the center was traditional. The feather holds the meaning of breath or air, which is essential for life. A woman’s feather is that of the owl, for wisdom. A man’s feather is of the eagle, kept for courage.
So next time you hang up a dream catcher, remember to put it somewhere close to where you sleep. After all, a good dream or two can’t hurt anyone!
Throughout the country, many museums honor the culture and history of African-Americans. These museums often offer a great collection of art representative of numerous decades and make for great stops on road trips. Blair Stover offers you a guide to the top ten African-American museums in the United States.
Starting in Dallas, Texas, the African-American Museum in Dallas was established in 1974. It began at Bishop College and ran independently beginning in 1979. One of the biggest African-American Folk Art collections of the U.S. is housed here.
Moving on to Tennessee, we can appreciate how African-Americans have influenced music along with art and culture. The National Museum of African-American Music, located in Nashville, is a national museum highlighting 48 music genres influenced by African-Americans.
In Birmingham, Alabama, one can find the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Achievements of the African-Americans in arts, as well as a portrayal of the harsh truth of history are exhibited in this museum.
The Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. can currently be found on the second floor in the National Museum of American History, although a new building is currently being constructed. The new building is anticipated to open in 2015.
Additional museums that should not be missed include The African-American Firefighters Museum in Los Angeles, California. Visit Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to find August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Amherst, Massachusetts houses the Institute of Black Invention and Technology, Inc. In New York, New York, one can find The Studio Museum in Harlem. The River Road African American Museum is found in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Lastly, Charlotte, North Carolina is home of the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture.
Have you been to one of these museums? If so, be sure to share your experience and what you liked in the comments below.
At the age of six, Frida Kahlo contracted polio. She was confined to her bed for a long time and when she recovered, she found that she had a slightly shorter right leg. On September 17, 1925, she suffered serious injuries in an accident between a bus and a tram. A piece of iron penetrated her pelvis through her back. Her injuries forced her to a month-long hospital bed. During this time, she took up painting out of boredom.
In September of 1926, at age nineteen, she painted her first self-portrait, “Self-Portrait in a Velvet Dress.” In 1928, the Mexican painter Diego Rivera introduced himself and the two became a couple and were married a year later on August 21, 1929, even though Rivera was twice her age.
In 1938, Frida Kahlo presented her paintings for the first time from a gallery in New York. The following year, her works was shown in Paris. In 1939, Frida dissolved her childless marriage with Rivera and painting became her full-time passion. However, in 1940, she married Rivera again. In 1944, Kahlo had to undergo a total of eight spinal surgeries and she ended up wearing a steel corset.
In 1946, Frida Kahlo received the Mexican National Prize for Painting, for her work entitled “Moses”. Two years later she was again a member of the Communist Party of Mexico. On July 2, 1954, she was present at a demonstration to the overthrow the president of Guatemala, which was organized by the CIA. Frida Kahlo died just 10 days later on July 13, 1954, in her home in Mexico.
The Mexican painter is known as one of the most important representatives of a popular development of Surrealism.
The art of oil painting is when colors are blended with drying oil mediums. The most common of these mediums used in paintings are the linseed oils. However, there are other types of oils like sunflower, which are widely used because of its distinctive use in lighter pigments. This type of painting has become one of the best ways a person can express art because it can remain wet for an extended period of time. In fact, it could take weeks before it dries which allows painters to mix up colors if need be. Blair Stover has more on how modern day oil paintings have revolutionized the art world.
During the Renaissance period, artists loved to experiment with oils. While exploring this new kind of art, they discovered what is, considered today, modern art. What we now know as modern oil paintings became a new art form back in 1863 and continued on until the 1970’s. Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most famous of oil painters.
The late 19th century saw Romantics, Realists and Impressionists lead the innovation of modern oil paintings. Most artists actually made a living on their artwork and the government would sometimes enlist the services of artists and pay them for their work.
When the 20th century came around, Pablo Picasso really made his presence known and the dawn of Picasso was born. His work, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, is considered to be one of the most prominent oil paintings he ever created.
Modern oil paintings can be made through distinct style and textures. You can find them everywhere you turn, from houses to offices. A buyer will purchase a piece of art if he or she feels a connection through the art and that is the true meaning of art and why artists are in the business.
Gustav Klimt, the Austrian painter, was born in Baumgarten, Vienna on July 14, 1862 and he was obsessed with the human link. With this framework, Klimt created his definitive version for this theme that sparked his interest. “The Kiss” is the magnum opus of the “golden age” of the artist, with decorative abstract themes made of geometric shapes and floral patterns.
However, the work has drawn violent criticism and was a financial failure. However, before the end of the exhibition, the Austrian government bought the painting for the national collection. Here are four details of “The Kiss”, provided by Blair Stover:
- Head Lover. In all versions of Klimt’s work, the man’s face is hidden, giving more emphasis to women. However, some argue that because of his pallor and his painful horizontal tilt of the head, it may have been decapitated. The theme of decapitation was very common in Symbolist art.
- Female Foot. The foot protruding from the woman indicates that she is kneeling while the man appears to be standing. The twist is that she was standing and she was taller than him.
- Golden Ribbon. The golden strands that come out of the woman’s legs were probably created as stylized curls of hair. In Symbolist art, the “femme fatales” used to be portrayed with extremely long hair, which they used to lure their victims.
- Flowered shrub. The shrub flowers are the only vestige realistic scenario lovers. Klimt loved flowers and he cultivated them in the garden without any interference to the work. This form of nature, however, was never made to adorn conventional landscapes.
Klimt died in Vienna at the age of 56 in Vienna.
Edvard Munch was an artist from Norway who painted as an Expressionist artist. Some of his more famous works are recognized by many today. In 1863, he was born in Loten. He started working in painting at the age of seventeen. Through a state grant in 1863, he studied in Paris.
Elements of brooding, anguish and pain are often noted Edvard Munch’s paintings. This is felt to be due to his personal obsession with grief. Blair Stover notes that in the expansion of the Expressionist movement, this was an indispensable contribution.
Beginning as broad expressions, Munch’s later works depicted more and more images of a personal nature involving death and illness. In fact, in 1892, Munch held an exhibition. It was so shocking to the public that the show was soon closed.
His most famous works include “The Scream”, and “The Sick Child”. In these paintings the trauma that he went through while witnessing the death of his mother and sister to tuberculosis were depicted. In many of his paintings one will find hidden faces, limp figures, brooding houses, threatening and looming shapes, innocent sufferers, and sexual anxieties. Taken as a whole, the works of Edvard Munch are intense and discontented.
As anxiety became too severe, Edvard Munch was hospitalized. In 1909, he returned to Norway. He passed away in 1944 in Oslo, leaving behind significant works with a style of simplicity, directness and thought to be vigorous. These paintings and their style worked as vital forces in modern graphic art, at a later date.