Friday, May 22, 2009
Two recent blogs on Irises, Cool Blue at The Spicebush Log, and The Art of the Iris at Madsilence, were fresh in my mind as I watered my new tomato transplants this morning. Both blogs were about Irises, both cultivated and wild, and reminded me of the beauty of flowers as well as their source as inspirations for artists.
When I looked up from my watering I saw the first open blooms on our 'Autumn Sunset' rose, nestled between some Ramona clematis, which have been open for awhile. Given time I'd try a watercolor. Given no time as today a photo was called for. As I took the photo I couldn't help but admire the nearby flower bud stalks of 'Henry's Garnet' Virginia Sweetspire waving around the open flowers our our unnamed Rhododendron.
As I speculated on Madsilence's blog I have to wonder how many artists got their first inspiration as children from moments such as this. Madsilence has a quote from Claude Monet which says 'I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.' You do have to wonder. How many artists first saw pure color, and light, in flowers?
Speaking of color in art I see that the Obamas have borrowed a fabulous Richard Diebenkorn Berkeley series painting from the National Gallery of Art for the White House. I've always liked Obama but this shows he has incredibly good taste as well! I'm very partial to Diebenkorn, having discovered him while living in California through most of the 1970s, and before he'd become quite as famous as he is today. At that time he seemed like a living embodiment of the love of color in painting, a rightful successor to Matisse.
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A purple iris
Spattered with the droppings
of a passing hawk.
--Japanese haiku master Buson
A haiku about nature and beauty, the transitory nature of the world, and the disdain nature has for its own beauty.
An interesting poem. It's been many years since I've read any haiku and even when I did it was not much. But based on that limited knowledge I recollect that it often had a surprise in it, like the beauty of an iris, spoiled, or maybe not, by the droppings of a passing hawk. I know it's wrong to generalize about a huge genre of poetry in such a way and maybe I'm just completely wrong. But that was the first thing that struck me when reading the poem.
You can't deny that nature sometimes does seem to disdain its own beauty, but then maybe nature's beauty is mainly in the eye of its human beholder. I guess these few short words leave you to ponder on that and other things.
My dad posted that haiku but I think I can shed a little light about haiku aesthetics. One of the biggest aesthetic values in Japanese art is called "wabisabi." It's rooted in the Buddhist concept of impermanence. Essentially it means that things are more perfect for their imperfections, and should be appreciated for them. That's why tea-bowls made by the highest masters are never truly round, but lumpy and rough. In the haiku we appreciate nature and its beauty more by contrasting it with its imperfections. The book "In Praise of Shadows," by Junichiro Tanizaki was written to support native Japanese arts and architecture but illustrates many of the wabisabi elements in their culture. It's really worth a read if you have an interest in architecture. Also there's a hysterical essay on Japanese vs. Western toilets!
Hi MS, Elder and Younger,
Thank you both for your comments! I now know a bit more about haiku and wabisabi. My reading list keeps growing and growing but somewhere on it I'll find room for "In Praise of Shadows."
The poem has stuck in my mind because as I was just looking out our back door, and only barely awake, I realized that our Jackmanii clematis should soon be opening their deep blue-purple blossoms, among the already open pink blush blossoms of our New Dawn roses. The combination is really striking. But it's also fleeting, only lasting for a few days. We need to enjoy it in the short time it's there.
And what about wasabi or Japanese horseradish? A great way to clear out the sinuses! :-)
A timely question: What about wasabi? That's what we wondered when our bottle of wasabi powder from Penzey's Spices ran out a couple of weeks ago. It was much more expensive than some of the wasabi I've bound in Asian food stores. In fact when it ran out I used some from those grocery stores that was probably 10 years old and it still had some flavor.
But I seem to recall reading that most wasabi powers really don't include wasabi. Instead they mimic it since true wasabi is very expensive. So....what should we do? What brand of wasabi powder do you recommend? Or are you spoiled by the real thing?!
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