Dec. 6th, 2013

gnine: (Default)
Look at me, I'm actually posting! On TIME even! ^__- For [ profile] tasabian:

So, I'm terrible at actually picking favorites...of anything really. I just like waaaay too much stuff. And sculptures have always been an art form I particularly enjoy. They're what often draws me most in museums and historical sites, so narrowing it down to ones I love the best is near impossible. But I do have two statues that spring to mind as having some of the greatest lingering impact/strongest memories upon first seeing them so um...guess that'll have to do? Err...sorry?

The first is Michaelangelo's Pieta, in Saint Peter's Basicall, Vatican city. While defaulting to Michaelangelo's work is perhaps a bit of cliche, I can't help it. I've loved all of his statuary I've seen in person (photos just never do sculpture justice -_-). But this was one of the first and it's always stuck with me. Italy was my very first trip abroad, junior year in high school and that fact alone made everything just that little bit extra special as I'd been yearning to travel for as long as I could remember. Being a school trip, it was a CRAZY 10 days, filled with a LOT of museums, basilicas, galleries, etc. But even among that whirlwind of tremendous art experiences, the Pieta stood out.

Obviously, its placement and subject matter is highly religious (as so much of the art of that period is). I was raised regularly practicing Catholic until age eleven or so and was very familiar with the surrounding religious iconography. But standing there, I was moved away from the religious connotations; instead there was just something about it that so captured the essence of a grieving parent, a mother saying goodbye to her son, that felt so realized in each curve of marble. Will never forget it.

The second sculpture dates from about 800 years earlier and thousands of miles further and yet is also a death tableau. Um...apparently I have a thing? Ooops?

I keep finding different translations of the exact title, both most are somewhere along the lines of Tableau of the Death of Shaka. It is a unbaked clay and wood sculpted scene of the death of Buddha, found in one of the oldest temples in Japan, Horyuji, in Nara. I first came across it in an art history class in college while going for my Asian Studies major, before I ever went to Japan. It was a piece we returned to multiple times in that class, as some of the styles, as well as the intricate representations of Buddha's followers' reactions to his death are considered key elements in Japanese art of that period and many of the ones to follow.

Even just looking at the grainy photo in our text book, the amount of detail and emotions expressed in the small figurines drew me in. But it was about 6 months later, when I got to visit Horyuji in person that it really stuck with me. That trip is particularly memorable because at the time, while I remember the sculpture, I had forgotten where exactly in Japan it was located. I was visiting the temple for its overall historical significance: one of it's pagoda's is considered to be the oldest wooden structure in the world, built in 711 AD. At the base of said pagoda are four clay tableau's, one of which is the Death of Shaka.

There I was, wandering this temple, and was suddenly confronted by this sculpture I'd repeatedly studied the year before and been so intrigued by. I may have had a bit of a totally geektastic, fangirl squee moment. Which happened to catch the attention of two Japanese college boys, one who had been explaining the tableau to his friend. He sees me being all dorky and giddy and asks if I know what the statue is about. Chance to practice my Japanese to cute Japanese guys? Sold! So in my intermediate Japanese I stumble through a quick explanation of the significance of Buddha's death and how the follower's differing levels of grief and acceptance signify the different Buddhist's sects. Upon my halting finish, the first guy turns to his friend "see, even the GAIJIN[foreigner] knows more about this than you." In the end, those boys' looks of triumph and chagrin have become so entwined with my memories of the statue that I can't fully say if it's just the sculpture that's so memorable or the entire experience.

But really that's par for the course. For me personally, at least, I find so much of my reaction to a piece of art is connected with the conditions surrounding my first time experiencing it. My emotional state at the time, who I'm with, any previous knowledge I may have of the piece or the artist all shape my perception. *cough*Venus de Milo...GetBackers*COUGH* ^___-

Thanks for the prompt, [ profile] tasabian!! Loved it ^_^


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