"I hate theme shows. I hate shows that bunch a whole lot of works together that should be seen alone." This -- or words to this effect -- is what an artist friend said when I was telling him about a show of Chinese paintings at the Met I had reviewed. It hit home because, … Continue reading Scrolling through Chinese art
Cannot quite yet let go of the Churning of the Sea of Milk... Here are the asuras or demons standing on the sea, tugging fiercely on the snake... And here are the devas or gods, also standing on the sea (which you don't see here) with heavenly maidens frolicking above their heads: Why is it … Continue reading Asuras and devas at Angkor Wat
The Wall Street Journal's art page has this great feature called the Masterpiece column in which you get to just stop and spend time on one work. As every writer who has done one of these will tell you, it is exhilarating and frustrating. I don't have to explain the first part, at least not … Continue reading Saving the Sea of Milk
Okay, I admit it, I have a predilection for terrifying creatures whose sole job is to frighten away demons and evil spirits. These two tomb guardian beasts (or zhenmushou for those of us who try to learn these terms...not that we always succeed in remembering them...) are typical in form but pretty rare in terms … Continue reading Unearthed treasures
Whether or not the ancient Khmer had a word for it, they certainly knew how to express the power of transitions and threshholds in stone. Sure wish "liminality" had some of that oomph.
Whether it is a temple or a stupa or one of the many (many!) gilded Buddhas in Myanmar, it is hard to believe that they started off looking something like this -- Now, I'm not too crazy about gilt (no matter the spelling), but these gleaming domes and statues took on a different glow once … Continue reading What lies behind gilt… in Myanmar
...or as they might say in Myanmar, ogres are in the details. Walk up to temples in Bagan, spot some stucco decoration clinging to the bricks...and chances are you'll come face to face with some fierce protectors... And, seriously, could we not all use one or two of these?
This fall, artist and videographer Andrea Hull and I will be teaming up to launch Art+Asia/Writing+Video, a blog that takes full advantage of the genre by using words and images creatively to engage readers with contemporary and modern works by Asian artists. We will approach these works in the contexts of both the artist's national … Continue reading Art+Asia/Writing+Video
Visiting sites in Mrauk U in northwest Myanmar is seeing what the looters left behind -- well, looters and archaeologists, since many of the statues have been safely removed to museums around the country. There are headless torsos and faceless heads (some replaced with cement substitutes), severed arms and dismantled statues, gaping niches and … Continue reading what looters left behind
Just before leaving for a trip to Asia, I reviewed a show at the Peabody Essex Museum that was all about how Europeans' visions of China gave certain Chinese works a boost in the art market -- works with goldfish, for example, were popular sellers -- and sometimes even spawned new genres, like watercolors chronicling … Continue reading Seeing across borders