Many Views of Mt. Fuji
Relational Aesthetics in Action
The Ukiyo-e artists Hiroshige, Hokusai and his daughter Oi have inspired my Open Gate series. One of the common themes for these three Japanese artists is depicting Mt. Fuji from many different views. In my 2018 Watermark show at SoAG, I paid homage to the idea of recording many views of one place (the Lackawanna Rail Trail) in video and print, For the 2020 online SoAG show, I created Gates as a homage to Christo.
When I began teaching photography classes at Elmira College in 1979, I met many Japanese students who enrolled in my classes. I have stayed in contact with a number of them. Because this online exhibition is inspired by Japanese art, I asked if they would share ordinary photos of Mt. Fuji with me to create a collaborative project. The grid below shows Mt. Fuji today, from their many views. Names of the artists appear by clicking on the images below. I thank each of them for sharing their views with me!
Yuri Ozawa (Video collaboration: Ave Maria on Violin)
"Better Late than Never" - Photos by Megume Sobue
The video below shows photos sent by 小林政裕 (Masahiro Kobayashi). They were provided by his friends who live closer to Mt. Fuji. I have combined these images with three 19th century works by Hiroshige, Hokusai and Oi.
Information about Hokusai and Hiroshige is easily found on the Internet. Hiroshige's daughter Oi is more of a mystery. I recommend reading this short article "The Bohemian vs The Bureaucrat: Hokusai and Hiroshige" by Sandy Kita and Takako Kobayashi to understand more about the artists. In 2015 an animated movie about Oi, "Miss Hokusai," imagined what her life as a female artist would have been like in the 19th Century. Below I have provided very brief information on each of the three artists, as well as images of interesting views of Mt. Fuji that they created.
Today the roads around Nihonbashi in central Tokyo are lined with towering office blocks and department stores, but when Utagawa Hiroshige created this print in 1856, Mount Fuji was a inescapable part of the street level view. Clouds obscure the physical distance, and bring the mountain almost into the city, creating the impression that it was not just part of the view, but very much part of Edo daily life.
THE GREAT WAVE OFF KANAGAWA
This masterpiece made Hokusai famous as the “painter of waves”. The sea is roaring and the rolling waves are about to collapse any moment. Fishing boats trapped inside the waves are desperately trying to stay balanced. Mt. Fuji appearing behind the rough waves remains calm. Only Hokusai could have come up with a picture expressing nature’s energy versus man power, stillness versus dynamism in such a unique and forceful composition.
MOUNT FUJI THROUGH A BAMBOO FOREST
ink and color on silk
Eijo (Oi) collaborated with her father Hokusai during the final two decades of his life and may have even worked as his ‘ghost brush’. Her rendition of Mt. Fuji has a dreamlike quality in this ink painting on silk.
One of the stories about Oi and her father is that they loved art above all else. When their house became cluttered, instead of cleaning it, they just moved to another place. Whenever my own house becomes more art studio than living space, I forgive my indifference to the domestic chaos by imagining that I live in America's version of a "Hokusai House."