Ueno Park Red Bird

Ueno Park Red Bird

I was thinking of my friends in New Orleans as I made this piece, the beads and ornamentation, the echo of Lafcadio Hearn who left New Orleans to live in Tokyo, find much alike in those places.  Some of my collectors have whined that the Japanese things have been too decorative and too pretty.  Maybe there is something to that…who knows.  Myself, I feel like they are good representations of the Tokyo I experienced, as elegant and ornamental as that place may be.  I love the graphic sensibility of Japanese comics and graphic art; the more, more, more of it.  If it is not for you, well, this is what makes a horserace, and I give not a fuck.

New Orleans is also like this ñ color and shapes and sweat and nature all commingled into a lovely kind of sweet gumbo for the eyes.  I’m especially happy for my other city in the wake of the SAINTS . . . BOO YAH!!!!!!  It is the indication that this holy place is back.  My friends from NOLA texted, called and e-mailed their collective joy from all parts of the city yesterday, and I was overjoyed and over the moon for them.  I also made a neat pile of cash on the game ñ the Saints being 6-point dogs.  I’m betting more than one bookie lost his shirt yesterday.

I go to places like New Orleans, Tokyo and New York for sanity, for the joy and the mysterious poetry of those streets.  It is odd how I feel at home on the streets of New Orleans and Tokyo, and like a foreigner on the streets of Chicago lately.  At times there seems to be this untethering of my belonging to this city.  The desire to wander is more and more part of my work and make-up.  I have been the dutiful son to Chicago; I feel like I have done my bit here and I want to put the rest of the world in my work and see it with my own eyes.

I enjoyed performing This Train so much because I feel like it was a fair look at this place.  I love and hate this city, and I’ll always need it, it is my home.  But I also feel tremendously at home in New York and New Orleans, Tokyo and Austin.  You couldn’t give me other places, but these ones I dearly treasure.  This spring I’ll go to Prague and Istanbul, and I hope I love those cities as much.

In Ueno Park in Tokyo, all manner of gorgeous songbirds can be found and actually heard.  It is a magical place.  See it before you shuffle off of this planet.  You’ll thank me.

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Published in: on February 11, 2010 at 10:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Hungry Ghost

The Hungry Ghost

When you look into the ponds found in many Japanese parks and shrines there are always koi and carp.  From time to time you’ll spot an almost translucent white carp, an albino of sorts, gliding like an aquatic white ghost.  Japan and Asia, for that matter, are fairly lousy with ghosts.  One of the most haunting spook stories is that of “The Hungry Ghost.”  It pops up in Thai, Chinese and Japanese folk-tales and ghost stories.  It goes that if one has led an unscrupulous life, he, or she, is doomed in the after-life to roam the world as a hungry ghost for 800 years.  The Ghost is said to have a mouth so small that no food can fit in it.  I’ve heard this story, or variants of it, many times.  To wander, hungry, is thought to be the worst of fates.  Perhaps this is because, all over Asia, starvation is a very real-world problem.  In all of these folk-tales and parables, hunger is akin to madness.

Tokyo has made an impression on me.  It is another world that lingers in the imagination long after one returns home.  The ease with which I was able to navigate Tokyo was a surprise to me, as well as the feeling of comfort while wandering that city.  It is good to get away from one’s landscape.  To experience new sights and sounds and ways of living is a great blessing.  I spent years making work about the wonder of my own city and now it is time to let the rest of the world into my work.  I’ve thought long and hard about just what it is I want, and the simple truth of it is, I don’t want much of anything.  I pretty much have what I want.  What I’d like now is to spend my  money and time on experiences rather than “stuff’.”  I want to see more of the world and get out of  my land-locked existence as an American.  We often just see the world through our own myopic scrim and when we view ourselves from another country, our whole picture becomes exponentially more visible.  We wonder why other countries fear and distrust us, but when you view the U.S. from Asia or the U.K., we look awfully big and reckless.  I’m always  curious to know what America means to the rest of the world and very often, we are an enigma to foreigners in their countries.

I’ve never been treated with anything other than kindness when I’ve traveled to other countries.  People are curious about us.  They do tend to think we’re all rich, which is kind of funny, but by and large, most of the people I meet are surprised that Americans are as nice as we are.  Given what they see of our government’s policies, I understand this.

Published in: on October 1, 2009 at 1:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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