Thursday, March 14, 1991

The Tale of Genji

48" x 35"

Through the centuries, white has been the most revered color in Japan. But, the color equally respected and popular at the Imperial Court of Heian (794-1192) was the color ‘almost-black’.

Deeper colors expressed a higher rank within the same grade. Everyone wanted to have garments dyed in deeper color, so much so that scarlet looked like almost purple, and purple became so deep that the imperial assembly would look almost black.

In “The Tale of Genji,” I tried to express the sense of colors of the Heian court while evoking the stories of the graceful and romantic court life.

Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. William Yee.

Wind Chimes

48" x 40"

In the old days on the streets of Tokyo, the vendors’ songs marked the time of the day. Natto-uri came in the morning, selling fermented soybeans in thick straw tubes. By afternoon, Takezao-ya was calling out the virtues of his bamboo laundry poles. Often he was followed by Medicine Man, whose appearance was heralded by the sound of the metallic drawer handles beating a rhythm against the chest he carried on his back.

Toward evening, the wind-bell vendor came on his tricycle. The sound of his colorful chimes seemed to cool the air. The poet Takahama Kyoshi observed:
“From the eves
the peal of chimes filled the air…
the wind is rising.”
I wanted to paint “the peal of chimes” on this canvas.


27" x 24"

In the old days, in Japan, the kimono was the customary attire for men as well as women. Thus kimono sewing was a popular cottage industry. On February 8, broken needles were collected and offered to Awaji-sama, the guardian deity of women for continuing guidance. Legend has it that the needles were stuck in tofu to wrap them with tenderness in gratitude for their service.
day of gratitude--
in the tofu
broken needles
I wanted to capture the atmosphere of this custom, and express it on the canvas with a tactile sensation of fabric against wintry background.

Wednesday, March 13, 1991

Copius Summer

60" x 40"

At the height of summer, the trumpet vine blooms with its yellow-red hanging flowers. It climbs up the fence, to the eaves, down the siding, and attracts hummingbirds.

At the height of summer, the colors of plants seem to soak up the warmth of the sun. No wind... only the hummingbirds stir the air in the afternoon garden.

The opening lines of John Keats' poem, Sleep and Poetry, comes to my mind:
"What is more gentle than a wind in summer?
What is more soothing than the pretty hummer
That stays one moment in an open flower
And buzzes cheerily from bower to bower?"
In "Copious Summer," I wanted to reflect the sense of contentment that I feel at the height of summer.