Tuesday, October 27, 2009

After Life

When I think of after life and the different aspects and beliefs of it from different religions or cultures, I usually think of the Egyptians' practices. Recently, I have been reading a book on religion, and came across the chapter on Egyptians. The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt ranked themselves on a level with the gods. When the Egyptians discovered the art of mummification (preservation of the dead body), the claims of invincibly by the Pharaohs appeared to be proved. So it was only fitting that in death they were treated royally as they had been in life. All that was needed was a palace for the immortal king, which is why they built extravagant tombs.

On the trip to SLAM we saw the coffins of mummified corpses. The art that adorned these beautiful coffins was breathtaking. The hieroglyphics, being art themselves, tell the stories of the life of the one who is dead. They were put in tombs surrounded by their worldly possessions. Golds and bright colors all over tell the story of the life in the after life.

Even their pets were put in their tombs with them. Cats were so revered in Ancient Egypt that they were mummified in the manner of kings. In the end of it all, Egyptians were ready with all their possessions and riches to travel with them to after life.

Information from:
The History of Religion by Karen Farrington

Images from:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Canopic Jars of Ancient Eygpt

These elegant jars can have an unsettling effect on some people because of what they were used for. Canopic Jars are used to hold the stomach, liver, lungs, and the intestines of embalmed person. Each internal part was protected by a different goddess while each jar was topped with a god's head that represented a cardinal direction. The god Hapi (the baboon), who represents the north, is accompanied by the goddess Nephthys in protecting the lungs. The South is represented by the god Imseti (human-headed) whose companion is the goddess Isis and they protect the liver. The god Duamutef (the Jackal), represents the east, is accompanied by the goddess Neith in the responsiblity of protecting the stomach. Last but not least is the god Qebehsenuef (falcon), represents the west, and his companion the goddess Selket that protect the intestines.
A weathered set of Canopic Jars.

Each jar lid is intricately carved and sometimes painted or trimmed in gold. Most are adorned with hieroglyphics. Canopic jars were normally made of calcite(also known as Egyptian Alabaster), limestone, or clay. However, calcite is the most prized material used. Canopic jars or vases are another example of the rule "form follows function". Canopic jars are normally stored in Canopic Chest that are just as artistically carved and inscribed.

King Tut's canopic jar set in its canopic chest.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Trip to SLAM

Above is my personal photo I took while at SLAM,
and the photo below is an image of the same sculpture from www. slam.org
Guanyin is a Buddhist deity. This sculpture was made in China during the 11th century in the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). It is made of wood, gesso, and pigment with gilding.

Throughout the St. Louis Art Museum I found many other cultures' art to be astounding, but there was nothing that really hit me until I walked through the Asian collection. This piece is Guanyin lounging. It really effected me because it was so powerful, yet really delicately made.

The material in which it was made from alone was the most influential part of it. I took the wood as being very natural, and Guanyin being carved from nature its self was amazing. It tied into the religion in that one can meditate to become one with nature, so essentially, this is personafying it.

Another thing that really hit me was that he was up high on a pedestal. I liked it because it was the highest piece in the room so aestically caused it to be more demandive of attention and it really drew your eye to it. It also symbolizes a transcending effect towards heaven and after life.

Finally, the thing that was most appealing about it to me was the pigment was still shining through the centuries old wood. The colors were still very bright and vivid for the wood being so old and going through so much. The colors made the gesture of the lounging Guanyin move and relax.

Ink Scroll Drawings

As an artist, I concentrate mostly with two-dimensional work which includes drawing and painting.  There was one work of art at the St. Louis Art Museum, which put me in awe and amazement.  It was a large ink drawing on a scroll by Wan Shanglin from China in 1797.  His brushwork is a combination of washes and dry strokes that reflect a personal style as well as a tradition of monochrome ink painting in China.  For this scroll with long narrow proportions, the painting interweaves masterful brushstrokes to gradually build layers of ink wash and texture into a silvery landscape.

The contrast of lights and darks in this ink drawing is minimal.  The white of the paper is shown through in some spots but there are dark ink ares throughout the whole piece which overall gives it a sense of having contrast.  These large ink drawings consist of mountains on the upper half, trees and small houses in the middle portion and rocks and usually a river in the lower portion.  The brushstrokes seem so minimal but it is highly detailed.  The control it takes to make single brushstrokes and to individualize the types of strokes for the mountain side, for trees and shrubbery, for water, for little huts each takes precision.  One can also tell the atmosphere of the drawing.  The mountains seem to be lighter while the trees and rocks on the bottom which are closer to the viewer are darker.  Along with a very detailed landscape ink drawing, the boarder surrounding the drawing is made up of a silvery lace which acts as a frame and has a large wooden rod at the bottom of the paper to keep it steady.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

8th CenturyTang Dynasty Horse

This unglazed earthenware piece was created sometime in the 8th century during the Tang Dynasty. The artist is unknown. It is obvious that the horse depicted in the earthenware is not from China because of its long legs, slender head, and tall build and was most likely imported from the countries in the west. Western horses were called Celestial horses and were coveted by people in the Tang Dynasty as were arts depicting these muscular and swift beasts.

The elegant yet powerful curves form the arc in the neck. The long, stiff vertical lines of the front legs suggest a tension and energy so life-like that it appears that at any moment the horse may rear up on its back legs. The horse's head pulled of to the side with laid back ears and open mouth. The sculpted saddle is so well-made that it appears to drape and fall like an actual cloth and leather saddle. The unglazed earthenware is combined with horse hair for the tail creates a life-like multimedia project.

This piece can be found at the St. Louis Art Museum.

Friday, October 9, 2009

False Discord

When looking at non-western art, someone with a western frame of mind should keep an open mind. It is especially apparent in Indian art that preconceived ideas can cause confusion. One has to remember that symbols in non-western art do not necessarily mean the same thing has they do in western art. Fire in Indian art is a great example of this cause of confusion. As a western viewer, fire would seem to be a destructive force often associated with the devil. In Indian art it seems to have a much different connotation. Not only are there symbols that change between cultures, but some items are often used as symbols that are not usually used in western cultures. The lotus is featured in Buddhist art with some different meanings. "The roots of a lotus are in the mud, the stem grows up through the water, and the heavily scented flower lies above the water, basking in the sunlight. This pattern of growth signifies the progress of the soul from the primeval mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the bright sunshine of enlightenment." (Exotic India). I feel most western viewers would not see that being the meaning behind a lotus. The point of this post is to remind everyone to keep an open mind when viewing a different culture's art. Do not immediately apply your own culture's ideas and traditions to another culture's art. It takes some research to get a better understanding of another culture's art.

For Indian art this page has a lot of good information on symbols.

Nkisi Nkondi

Discord is the tension caused by a lack of agreement among persons, groups, or things. When I first looked at a Nkisi nkondi (hunter figure) of the Kongo in Africa, I immediately felt tension. My first thought was that some person must really dislike another. After reading, I found that this was a half truth. The figures or "hunters" are wooden statues with nails, glass and other sharp objects driven into the body. It turns out that hunters are used with the help of a priest to punish wrongdoers in the African Kongo. A person will go to a priest and ask them to unleash the power of the nkisi nkondi. the person will swear an oath and drive a sharp object into the statue binding themselves to the spiritual forces within. Nails are usually not driven into the face or cavity of the stomach where magical ingredients are stored to attract spirits. The spirits of the hunter will track down the wrongdoer and bring justice upon them. The number of protruding objects and open holes show how often a particular hunter has been used. The result is a physical manifestation of tension between people in a culture. The harsh metals and glass clashing with the smoothly sculpted wood cause physical dicord in the viewer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Structure In Japanese Garden in Missouri Botanical Gardens

Yesterday I visited the Missouri Botanical Gardens on a trip to St. Louis with my drawing class. I wanted to share my experience there and talk about the structure of the Japanese garden. It was the most interesting and the one I felt most strongly about.
I spent most of my time there because it was very quiet and tranquil. I sat on a stone with a classmate and sketched a beautiful stone sculpture of a Japanese structure. It was a tower of some kind that was tucked back in a quiet, dark little corner of the garden in which only a stone trail lead out to. The sculpture only had splashes of light draped across giving it small subtle hints of shadow. It was a rigid temple with windows through each side. I sketched only have of the piece while I spent the rest of my time taking in the environment-sounds of the fountains and waterfalls, smells of the Japanese pine and cherry blossoms.
The Japanese Garden is named Seiwa-en, which means the garden of pure, clear harmony and peace. There is a 4-acre lake in the garden full of bridges, fountains, and streams. The lake is surrounded by dry gravel gardens that are raked into beautiful patterns.
I thoroughly enjoyed feeding the Japanese koi and the ducks that call the Japanese Garden home. Overall, the experience was very relaxing and I know I fully understand their culture and their love and appreciation for nature and everything that it entails. I feel that the environment that they created soothes and relaxes everyone who walks through it, sits in it, or breathes it in.

Images and information came from the Missouri Botanical Gardens webiste: www.mobot.org

Monday, October 5, 2009


One characteristic of Chinese art is the extent to which it reflects the class structure.  Up to 221 BCE, the arts were produced by anonymous craftsman for the royal and feudal courts. Bronze sculptures were regulated by the court and could only be done by workshops which were approved to do so. During the Han dynasty landowners and merchants became patrons summoning paintings, calligraphy, poetry, music, and sculptures which enabled the educated of the lower class and the elite amateur artists to arise.  Scholarly amateurs concentrated on visual arts which became a tradition and was admired by other amateurs and gentlemen.  During the Chinese revolution, scholarly art and artists were looked down upon and the work of anonymous artists before 900 CE (Tang Dynasty) were emphasized again. The work of Chinese artist has been in a transformation from craftsman who were commissioned to do work, the artists coming out of workshops, and the scholarly were allowed to create artwork.  The structure of art has also gone from doing work for the royal and feudal courts to work consisting of visual arts and also music. 



Thursday, October 1, 2009

Chinese Structures

Structure is defined as the action of building : construction, : something (as a building) that is constructed. Most times when people think of structure they refer to the old, or ancient as some people prefer to call it, buildings. What I would like to talk about is the bifference between modern and ancient chinese structres.

These picures are examples of ancient chinese structure. In these pictures you can see how the chinese decorated and spent alot of time on the detail of the roof. Not many people know why the chinese made building the way they did because chinese architecture is the least studied of the world's great architectural traditions from the west. The ancient buildins seem to really love the u shape for the roofs. Every picture of ancient chinese architecure has had the u shape roof.

These pictures are some examples of modern chinese srtuctres. They are completely different from the ancient buildings that I have seen. They almost seem as if they are futuristic. They seem to go beyond the normal modern buildings we have here in America and expand to a more advance composition.