Sunday, December 7, 2008

Printmaker paradise.

I’ve recently spent time contemplating the artwork of Takashi Murakami. And my respect for the artist continues to increase as I learn more about his tradition, process, and ideology. As part of my investigation, I discovered that one of the influences in Murakami’s art and his concept of "superflat" is the tradition of Japanese woodblock prints.

Recently, at the BYU Museum of Art, it was obvious how this ancient tradition could inspire something like Murakami’s paintings, sculptures, and other products. Windows on a Hidden World: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the BYU Collection is an exhibition featuring prints spanning hundreds of years. And you can see how they might have influenced Murakami.

You might think that Murakami’s use of Manga and Anime couldn’t come from influences in the early 1800s. But then you see Triptych Battle Scene by Utagawa Toyokuni, a print that feels comic-book modern, even though it's 200 years old.

And what about the line work in Behind the Waves off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)? This may be the most famous print in the show (and a print owned by Murakami). The line work is reminiscent of that in Murakami’s furiously happy flowers. It’s interesting that both Hokusai’s wave and Murakami’s chrysanthemums can be both friendly and menacing.

Some of the best prints in the show involve rain or snow. These prints seem illuminated from within, even in the exhibition’s dim light.

It’s worth seeing this show for its diversity and meditative nature. It’s even more interesting as you realize the influence these print makers have had on art, including the work of Manet, Monet, Degas, Cassatt, Van Gogh, and now Murakami.

Windows on a Hidden World is on display through January 19, 2008.

Hunting for a little Christmas spirit?

Here’s a strangely heartwarming story. It reminds me why small-town America is so great. My first morning in Wyoming started with a front-page story in the local newspaper, The Northern Wyoming Daily News. The feature photograph included my 15-year-old niece surrounded by a whole bunch of teen boys. Why? They’d gone hunting. The Wyoming Department of Fish and Game allows a certain number of deer to be killed and provided as food for the local food bank. My niece shot two deer as part of the program. The following day, she helped process the meat.

I gotta give Maggie credit. From my perspective, that’s real dedication to helping the needy. I’m happy to write a check to the Utah Food Bank. But I won’t be shooting any deer and processing the meat to feed the hungry.

Friday, December 5, 2008

American rifleperson II.

What do you do when you’re in Wyoming for Thanksgiving? Go shooting, of course. I’ll admit, guns scare me and I really don’t understand their allure. Guns are outside my comfort zone. But this Thanksgiving forced me to confront my fears.

Normally, I would skip a shooting excursion. But my dad and my 15-year-old niece Maggie were so excited about the idea of me with a gun that I didn’t want to disappoint. Plus, Maggie just got her learners permit so she was driving—how can you pass up an adventure that involves teen drivers and guns?!

We all loaded into the Suburban and headed out to Uncle
Bob’s farm and his personal shooting range. (Yes, I have an Uncle Bob who owns a farm on which he has installed his own makeshift shooting range.) There we met Uncle Bob, other relatives, and friends for an afternoon of guns.

The talk at the shooting range? The gun-ownership disaster that is Barack Obama. Jokes about how to avoid surrendering your weaponry to the new liberal administration were popular including statements like, “I gave all my guns to Scott” or “I threw my guns in the river.” I’ll be surprised if anyone actually loses one of his or her guns but considering the small arsenal on display, I decided it best to keep my liberal mouth shut.

I spent most of the time taking pictures. But my niece, my dad, and my brother were so excited about me firing a gun, that I succumbed to peer pressure. The first part of the day involved handguns. For this, the targets were posters of “perps” (perpetrators). I borrowed my brother’s new handgun and took a few shots at the bad guys. I don’t remember all of the gun details, but I’m pretty sure it was a Beretta, only because that’s the gun James Bond regularly used and I’m bit of a Bond fan. If the “perps” had been real, two out of three would have killed me.

For the second part of the day, we broke out the serious weaponry. This was a special occasion. After all, President Obama will soon take away my family’s assault rifles. That’s right, I said assault rifle. I can now say that I have fired an AR15 assault rifle. We fired at targets positioned at 100, 200, and 300 yards. I hit targets at both 100 and 200 yards and then stopped while I was ahead. But my niece had no problem hitting the 300-yard target. The targets were thick metal and the 200-yard metal pig made a beautiful tone when hit. I’m sure this won’t go over with the gun crowd but shooting could be more rewarding if it were more musical.

I’m not going to run out and buy a gun. But I have to admit, the outing was more fun than I expected. And it brought me closer to my family. So I’ll finish this post with a few photographs from Uncle Bob’s firing range in the badlands of Wyoming.

Preparing the "perp" targets.

Maggie taking aim.

Me, taking out a few "perps."

The target at 200 yards.