The Art of Natural Culture and Identity
In what ways can a work of art embody issues of identity, nature, and culture through the lens of Japanese aesthetic philosophy?
Through my experience studying abroad in France and London and research on French aesthetics, it became apparent that the basis of authentic French identity is the ability to transform the natural world into a visual atmosphere that transcends reality through an extensive knowledge of aesthetics. The French knowledge of aesthetics, the manipulation of nature, and ability to elevate the aesthetics of other cultures predominates the traditional Western understanding of culture through art and design.
While journaling on the bench at Chateau Fontainebleau as the gardeners meticulously trimmed the hedges that I realized that society organizes people in societies as well as cultures just as they organize nature. As opposed to the Western mentalities on nature, Eastern perspectives presented an idea of humanity working in flow, and efficiently with the natural environment as demonstrated at Tanabe Shouchiku III’s woven bamboo exhibit at the Guimet. With this project I present how one’s perspective can be altered, an identity formed, and a unifying cultural idea based off of the understanding of interconnectedness among humanity and nature, transforming the understanding of culture and aesthetics that guide Western thought.
My research and artwork demonstrates a reconnection with nature through art presented by Japanese aesthetic philosophies can foster a shift in perspective and an understanding of one’s self within natural culture creating a global sense of a culture based off the human population’s interconnectedness with the natural environment. This will inspire art and human creativity that generates global balance among humanity, nature, and culture. My research visually displays a relationship with the natural world through art. Art history is the visual history of ideas. An association with nature through art, a sense of connectivity, instead of domination and dissociation, generates a shift in society’s ideas and attitude toward nature and humanity’s place within nature dissolving cultural barriers and creating an individual and global identities revolving around environmental consciousness.
An Overview of Key Components:
Japanese Aesthetic Philosophy
Wabi-sabi, traditionally associated with Japanese tea ceremonies, is defined as an underlying perspective and aesthetic philosophy that is characterized by humanity adapting to nature, the passage of time, natural aging, impermanence, materials found in nature, organic shapes, individuality due to imperfections, simplicity, and subtle beauty. Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers states that, “Wabi-sabi can be called a “comprehensive” aesthetic system. Its world view, or universe, is self-referential” (41). Wabi-sabi rejects aspects of modernity, and excessiveness, in that it embraces the natural flow of existence, the importance and vital force of the environment, minimalism, and natural materials in order to create a true sense of beauty and authenticity.
Kire, cutting, is the idea that when something is removed from its natural state, it reveals its true nature. An example of kire include ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Ikebana includes removing plants from their natural rooted state through dry landscape gardens gardens, karesansui, which isolate plant life within a sea of rocks/pebbles. Through this isolation, the viewer is able to use nature as a mirror their identity, environment, purpose and morality.
Elements of the Project:
Ceramic Shadow Box:
The ceramic sculpture within the shadow box allows the viewer to contemplate identity, isolation, and nature. Japanese culture highlights retreats in the isolation and freedom of the countryside from the activity of the city for artists, poets, etc. and retreats within the city found in tranquil urban gardens (Kuitert 166-169). The structure of the ceramic with organic flowing lines, natural textures, design mimicking the patterned raking of Japanese dry landscape gardens, and plant-like forms within the bold, black, structured boundaries of the shadow box, reflect the beauty of growing where one is planted and the natural growth and evolution of plant life. The flower is a magnolia. In Hanakotba, the Japanese system of flower meanings, magnolias mean natural, subtle beauty, and the love of nature. Also, working with clay, forming with one’s hands allows the artist to imprint aspects of their identity into the work. The artist works with the natural clay and through their hands and the firing process, the artist and the clay work together to generate an object of transformative beauty.
Textile Wall Hanging:
The textile wall hanging was created with natural materials such as cotton, silk, and wool, as well as synthetic fibers/hair. Wall hangings are traditional seen works of decorative art used to adorn interior environments. After observing the weavers of Gobelins Tapestry Factory working on tapestries and rugs that entail a decade of labor and elevate the art to mimic painting and/or nature, it became apparent that like most works of art, an artist invests years of their life into creating one piece, which shapes their identity and existence. Also, the cultures surrounding decorative fiber art, woven creations, and hair collaborate in the textile wall hanging component of the work in order to generate an understanding aspects and inspiration from the study abroad experience.
Series of Self-Portraits
Through double exposure, the series of self-portraits merge me, as the artist, with nature. The portrait allows the subject to project their desired identity to the viewer. The self-portraits identity me with nature through my hair. The double exposure of human form and natural elements found at cultural locations, landmarks, and institutions create a alternative perspective on culture, the idea of natural culture.
I hope to further my research and exploration of nature, culture, and identity through the lens of Japanese aesthetic philosophy, through attending graduate school for Arts Administration/Leadership. Through my studies and professional path, I will gather other artists, researcher, artisans, art historians, etc. who find, investigate, and see authenticity of the arts, culture, and humanity through its connection with nature placing these artists within a publication and gallery space that can truly demonstrate the art of natural culture.
“Carte Blanche to Shouchiku Tanabe.” Musée National des Arts Asiatiques- Guimet, http://www.guimet.fr/en/home/116-anglais/exhibitions/1308-carte-blanche-to-shouchiku-tanabe
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