Well, since the next few weeks are preparing for the big sculpture show here in Loveland I thought I’d blog about something unrelated to what I’m currently working on (to keep things fairly interesting). A couple of years ago someone I know lent me a book called “In Praise of Shadows”. I’ve read the book twice and well, I wouldn’t even call it a book, it’s more of a large pamphlet or something. Well, let’s just call it a book for now to make things easier. In this book, the author talks about Japanese aesthetics and the comparison to western ideas of beauty. It has really opened up my eyes to what I consider beautiful art and I’ve been attempting to apply the core of the book into my art. What the author says is beautiful (in Japan) have an old and imperfect nature. This imperfection is what makes them beautiful. He calls it wabi sabi. If you’d ever hear me talking to myself in my car or in my studio chances are I’d mumble the words wabi sabi in some inaudible sentence, probably even out of context (“oh, my car needs an oil change and tire rotation… wabi sabi” or “tonight I think I’ll cook chicken and rice… wabi sabi”). I think in the book he tries to not use the word imperfection as the definition, it is deeper than that or different, but that is the basis. As a sculptor who appreciates, yes, sculpture I find that the works that I am drawn to have this. Mostly they are really old sculptures that were not well taken care of, sometimes a contemporary sculptor gets it, but it is rare! What really is interesting to me is that 99.9% of the sculptors today don’t want their sculptures to look old. I mean they do to some degree, but they stop at a certain point. I can totally appreciate a Rosetta (photo) with a smooth surface and interesting patina and glossy shine to it, but it does not compare to a Bruno Lucchesi sculpture (photo). Both are contemporaries, but there is a difference. Rosetta wants her sculptures to look new and fresh as if fresh from the oven. Her collectors like that. Bruno, on the other hand, understands wabi sabi. Maybe he doesn’t know about it personally, but he knows what is beautiful. Perhaps this is all just me, but I find it really interesting. Before reading the book, my sculptures had a shine to them. The shine (if you don’t know) is mostly caused by lacquer, wax and polishing. When I look back at those sculptures I can plainly see what needs to be done to them to look better under todays household lighting. When a shiny art object is placed in a home which has artificial lighting it tends to have a cheapening effect. The object looks plasticky. Plastic is not cool when it comes to art. Well, at least in my opinion it is not cool. I was observing some of Rodin’s sculptures and noticed the works that were more interesting to me did not have this glossy surface. They looked weathered and old. Sculpture is supposed to look old and aged. Compared to painting, which seems like the newer it looks the better it is. Cracks in the paint are not considered cool in a painting, dust is not considered cool, paint brush bristles stuck in the canvas are not considered cool. Why is it that the Venus de Milo sculpture all crumbled and almost broken up into dust is still so appealing? Wabi Sabi… I think an old painting has less value than an old sculpture, but again this is just me. Sculptures age like a fine bottle of wine. Paintings age like milk. It is big difference! Paintings require personal assistants for the remainder of their lives because of the fact that it is a thin layer of color on a flat surface. If that paint is gone than there is no art. Sculptures are round, voluminous and take up space usually in a very hard and durable medium. And therefore, being without any need of a caretaker, are very independent creations who usually let nature assist them in the aging process. If they were people they’d be the old Italian farmer who has lived his whole life in the village with little money and just a few friends. Paintings are like the Brittany Spears or Paris Hilton’s, always needing attention (“I have a flaw, can someone please tend to it already!”) Notice how it’s not even a question but a statement! Sculptures are happy and content with the little they have. Well, I’m probably going waaaay off on a tangent here and I make the comparison between paintings and sculptures because it is a rivalry that goes back to at least Michelangelo’s time (between Michelangelo and da Vinci), but it’s a difference that I’ve noticed (old vs. new in the different mediums). Anyways, enough of the comparisons. I think I’ve expressed enough on wabi sabi. Tonight I’ll probably have dreams of wabi sabi (not to be confused with wasabi) if I keep going on.
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