Monday, November 15, 2010

Photo by St. Louis Art Museum


Ardhanarisvara, the Lord Whose Half is Woman, is a representation of the hindu god Śiva. As the offspring of Brahma, Śiva is half male and half female. This shows that each gender is both complex and complementary to the other. The masculine side is stern with a broad shoulder and rigid physique, while the feminine side flows with a swayed hip, more decoration, and a single breast. With the combined genders, Ardhanarisvara is a singularly fulfilled and complete being.


This sculpture caught my attention because of its outward expression of the connection between males and females. It tells of the their differences in physique and posture, while professing the potential in unifying the two genders. In this case, it is a divine individual. This touches on the human curiosity of what the afterlife may be like. One could deduce from this sculpture that after life a person exists as both male and female, a perfect unison that conceives an unimaginable sense of completeness.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NonWestern Art History Fall 2010 Trip

Last Friday, 11/12, the NonWestern Art History class made a trip to the St. Louis region.  We stopped at the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Saint Louis University Museum of Art and Cahokia Mounds in Illinois before heading back to campus.

View 11/12 NonW Trip in a larger map

Mesoamerican Fertility Figure - Saint Louis Art Museum

Melanesian Effigy Figure - Saint Louis Art Museum

Guanyin Figure - Saint Louis Art Museum

Students Scott Walker and Joe Malin make it to the top 
of Monks Mound at Cahokia Mounds

View from the top of Monks Mound, Cahokia Mounds

Family flying kites on top of Monks Mound, Cahokia Mounds

Students on top of Monks Mound (L to R) Amanda Johnston,
Jenn Sahr, Scott Walker, Joe Malin - St. Louis and Arch are visible
in center distance

Monday, November 8, 2010

Unkei (1163-1223)

On the right is Ungyo (By mathewajay, one of the two great Nio guardians in front of the Todai-ji temple in Nara. They reside at the great South Gate and are approximately 30 feet tall. Unkei created these highly realistic painted wooden sculptures of priests with inlaid crystal eyes. They capture the highly dramatic spirit of the militaristic Kamakura society of the shoguns. He was one of the most famous sculptors of his day.

On the left is Kongo Rikishi ( Unkei created this sculpture using the joined-wood technique. This allowed him to extend the wood into space allowing added suggestive movement and realism. He was able to express the fury of Rikishi and give life to the sculpture. The tension and expression of the guardian seem to reveal the effects of the single-mindedness nature of the samurai at the time. Few statuary pieces can compare to the expression of this figure.

Art Beyond the West
by Michael Kampen O'Reiley

Tlingit Blankets

Tlingit Blanket Regalia. Photo from Flickr.

The Tlingits were a native American tribe that held a matrilineal society and lived around present day Alaska. Art was an important part of their society; what they wore often reflected their status and power. Their marriages were arranged, and the man moved into his wife's house. To show his new status, his wife or daughter would weave them a “a special ceremonial blanket...” that “might take the entire winter or
longer to spin.”

Tlingit Blanket 3. Photo from Flickr.
The blankets were crafted without looms and were made of mountain goat wool died black, yellow, and blue-green. The designs often had a sacred animal or event that was important to the tribe, such as hunting and other feats of strength. Symmetrical designs and geometrical patterns filled the rich tapestries that the men wore to ceremonies. When they would dance, the long, trailing fringe would accentuate their movements. “The blankets, shaped like inverted house fronts, translated the social symbolism of the architecture to a personal scale and context.”

O'Riley,Michael Kampen. Art Beyond the West. 2nd ed. New Jersey: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2001.

Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai (Concrete Art Association)

The Gutai Bijutsu Kyokai art movement was created by avant-garde Surrealist painter Yashihara Jiro in Osaka, Japan in 1954. After being suppressed by the government as a surrealist painter in the 1930's, Yashihara Jiro set out to produce artwork he felt had never existed before. The Gutai artists focused on spontaneity and the "accidental" effects that take place during the creative process. Yoshihara wanted to give form to the formless.
The Gutai philosophy took inspiration from theories by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung who believed artists could express deep emotions and ideas that lie within the subconscious. This inspired the Gutai group to find ways to express this Eastern-Western concept of ideas.
Of the thousands of works made by Gutai artists, few were saved except for photographs. Many times, after exhibitions, all the artwork was purposefully destroyed to further emphasize the importance of process and the act of creation. The movement only lasted for eighteen years, but the group had experimented with new forms of visual expression, indoor and outdoor installations, and working with film, action events, theater, and music to combine themes of new and old that blended and fused with western ideas.

Link to Gutai Manifesto:

O'Riley,Michael Kampen. Art Beyond the West. 2nd ed. New Jersey: Laurence King Publishing Ltd, 2001.

Photo: Shiraga Kazuo, Performance at the Second Gutai Art Exhibition, Ohara Kaikan Hall, Tokyo. October 1956.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Feng Shui "Wind and Water"

Feng Shui Garden
Feng Shui is the art of adding harmony and balance to any kind of space or enviroment. The history of feng shui dates back over 3 thousand years. There is no concrete date as to when the art and science of feng shui was established, however it is know it pre-dates the invention of the compass.

Historically feng shui was used as an asthetic and spiritual practice of arranging space and color to bring positive energy or qi (pronounch Chee) to a piece or art, home, building of importance or tomb.
Auspicious Structure, Forbidden City, Bejing, China
Qi and feng shui focus on the age of a structure, the position and surrounding elements to reflect a balanced qi. Qi an endless cycle of energy, like nature has its endless cyle of life and death and the harmony of them. In feng shui this energy is manifested into the surrounding objects. Feng Shui is in a sense using the balance of qi (good and evil or Yin and Yang) to create a positive enviorment.
Feng Shui Compass
To create this balance in a space by using feng shui, a compass or bagua (pronounced Ba-gwa) is used. The bagua illustrates each cardinal direction: North, South, East and West; as well as identifies the 5 essential elements: Water, Earth, Fire, Metal and Wood. Surrounding these are the Guas or nine major areas of life and the colors that best reflect them: Prosperiety, Fame and Reputation, Relationships, Health and Family, Creativity and Children, Skills, Knowledge, Career and last of all Helpful People.

It is fairly easy to understand how the bagua works. Holding the bagua level with your stomach with career, helpful people and knowledge closest to you; stand in the main door-way facing into the home. Looking at the bagua you can see wehre each object positions, what material, color etc should be found to obtain a balanced qi in your home. The ultimate goal in using feng shui, however, is to place buildings and objacts in palces where there is positive balanced qi. A balanced positive qi will bring whoever occupies that space great happiness, prosperity and harmony with nature. At least if the feng shui design is applied properly. Negative qi, will have the opposite effect. Symbols of Prosperity and abundance in Feng Shui
Feng shui was unfortunaly suppressed in China during the Cultural Revolution in teh 1960's. However, since then there has been a rise of popularity spanning from Asia to the United States. Feng shui is now a popular path for many interior decorators. However deep the traditions for feng shui go, it is now used for everything from the life-styles of the rich and famous to medicinal purposes outside of modern medicine. Creating a fear of scams with this ancient art in the West.

"There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house.
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation.
There will be peace in the world."
-Chinese Proverb

Reference sites:
Photos retrieved from:
Photographer: Feng Shui consultants photostream, 2009
Photo: Feng Shui Garden
Photographer: Chieu Nguyen, 2008
Photo: Symbols of Prosperity and abundance in feng shui
Photographer: radicaleye, 2005
Photo: Auspicious Structure, Forbidden City, Bejing, China
Photographer: Dave Faymr, 2009
Photo: Feng Shui Compass