I’ve been to the Philadelphia Art Museum many times this semester for my other liberal arts course, “Women Artists.” I actually was unlucky during my last visit, because I came to the museum for a different assignment the day before the Kano exhibit first opened so I couldn't save myself a trip. Still, I didn’t mind making another trip, especially because it’s free for students! This time around, instead of visiting the museum alone, I had the chance to visit with a fellow Arts of Japan classmate, which made the trip much more enjoyable! Since finals were in full swing, we couldn’t make the trip until the final installment of the Kano exhibit, but it certainly did not disappoint. We made our way up the many “Rocky” steps, past all of the couples and families posing for pictures, until we finally made it into the entrance of the museum.
The place was packed - the “Art of Kano” exhibit even more so. I was extremely surprised to see a lot of younger groups of people checking out the artwork; there were even children as young as seven asking about the different paintings and fans. One unique trait of the exhibit that I really want to talk about is the availability of sketchbooks throughout different sections of the installations. The museum also provided pencils and encouraged visitors to sketch in the sketchbooks, just as early Japanese artists sketched in theirs. I thought this was simply brilliant; all around me I saw both children and adults sketching out recreations of their favorite pieces. I picked up one of the sketchbooks and flipped through the pages before sketching and it was so fun to see everyone’s different styles and interpretations of the art. My favorite was a drawing a young child drew of a Fudo, which he titled “Scary Monster”. From my personal experience with the sketchbooks that morning, I learned that drawing and mimicking parts of an exhibit piece made me really appreciate it all the more. I began sketching Kano Tan Yu’s “Queen Mother of the West”, and while admittedly I wasn’t too into the screens at first, in the middle of sketching and looking through at the details of the piece, I ended up loving it. I particularly loved the way the trees were painted throughout the piece; they’d always bend and spiral in such interesting ways. The bark was painted in an interesting spotted texture, and I wrote in the sketchbook that the bark reminded me of leopard print and that the leaves reminded me of little green asterisks. After drawing the largest tree on the furthest left panel, I took an interest in one of the women featured in the screen, because I liked her subtle expression of happiness and her hairstyle, which featured several buns atop her head.
The second piece that I liked was the 17-18th century six fold screen, “Waves”, by Kano Tsuenenobu. Similar to “Queen Mother of the West”, these screens were done in ink, color and gold leaf on paper. My first thought when looking at this piece was how incredible the movement was; as I walked back and forth to each end of the screen it felt like the waves were moving forward and backward. As an animation major, this illusion of movement was definitely something that reached out to me and inspired me. The seagulls in the piece almost blended into the background, but the bright orange of their beaks and feet made them stand out quite well as they are shown flying over the waves and rocks. Although the waves were my first area of interest, the rock formations through the screens were my favorite part. Again, I love how the texture of the rock was illustrated and made three-dimensional with jagged points and strong brush strokes coming from all sides; the flecks of green to resemble moss and seaweed were also a lovely touch. The jagged rocks and swirling waves successfully gave off the intention of the piece, to show the how unpredictable the ocean truly is.
In one of the last rooms of the exhibit, I actually found…