Dean and I went to the "Luminous" exhibit at SAM yesterday. What a great show! It was a selection of Seattle Art Museum's vast Asian Art collection, curated by Doh Ho Su (the artist who created the amazing "dog tag" suit of armor sculpture). It opens with a group of Buddha heads, from different cultures, such as Indonesian, Thai, Cambodian. Then a series of sculptural fragments, and the idea that everything is a fragment, only a piece of the whole, but that it also contains the essence of the whole. The pieces are grouped thematically, rather than chronologically, or by country -- and this serves to open up to larger ideas of the meaning of art, museums, memory, preservation. Suh writes a thoughtful brief intro to each group, that is just the right amount of a prompt.
The most amazing part was Suh's installation called Gate. It is a screen in the shape of the gate at his ancestral home in Korea, onto which a series of video images plays: his Korean home in the changing light (time lapse video); some growing tree branches like paint strokes; butterflies, dragonflies, a deer; and then an amazing series of crows, single and flocking and filling the sky, and swarming into a whirl -- all echoing images that are to come in the next rooms. It is a pretty amazing piece, visually and viscerally moving, and it's worth it to sit in the dark anteroom and watch it for a while, before passing through the gate, and experiencing the transformation that great art offers. And then looking back, and seeing it again from the other side.
I love this poem from the new Jim Harrison book from Copper Canyon.
Another dawn in the village by the river
and I'm jealous of the 63 moons of Jupiter.
Out in the yard inspecting a lush lilac bush
followed by five dogs who have chosen
me as their temporary leader. I look up
through the vodka jangle of the night before,
straight up at least 30,000 feet where the mountains
are tipping over on me. Dizzy I grab the lilacs
for support. Of course it's deceitful clouds
playing the game of becoming mountains.
Once on our nighttime farm on a moonlit walk
the clouds pushed by a big western wind
became a school of whales swimming hard
across the cold heavens and I finally knew
that we walk the bottom of an ocean we call sky.
-- Jim Harrison, from Songs of Unreason