Friday, May 09, 2008

An afternoon drive down to the Philadelphia Art Museum led us to a small yet fascinating exhibit of Art Deco and Japanese kimonos from the 1930s and 1940s. We are used to seeing exquisitely formal Japanese kimonos with richly detailed embroidery, but here the surprise came in seeing kimonos designed for men. On the outside, expect austere black, but on the inside beautiful paintings and stenciled art delight the eye. Perhaps like a tattoo, unexpected and provocative.

This first kimono (a man's formal jacket from 1930s to 1940s) is shown inside out. I'm noticing most likely a poem on the right, with two little red "chops" (marks of the writer of the poem?), and then a wonderful painting of a Buddhist monk on a journey across water, perhaps to Japan's sacred island of Miyajima. How many provisions he takes for his journey!

A pair of infant boys' kimonos called Miyamairi (1920-1930), worn on the infant's first visit to the family Shinto shrine, drew my eye. Here the designs are hand-painted, recreating marvelously graceful carp (symbols of strength and perseverance) that float among willow leaves.

These simple lines are so beautiful. We'll be going back next week for the Frida Khalo exhibit, but this first dipping into current exhibits was wonderful. Happy Mother's Day to everyone!

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