Daibutsu ("Great Buddha") of Kamakura, Japan

There are hundreds of variations of Buddhism throughout the world, with the Jodo, or Pure Land sect being most popular throughout East Asia, especially Japan. The Great Buddha of Kamakura is a representation of the Pure Land sect’s Amida Buddha – the Buddha of Boundless Light. The huge statue is located in Kotoku-in, a Buddhist temple in Kamakura, Japan, far to the west – supposedly reflecting the belief that the Lord of Pure Land Buddhism lies in the far west.

Back view

The Daibutsu (literally “great Buddha”) was fashioned over the span of twelve years by the sculptors Ono Goroemaon and Tanji Hisamoto in about 1252. The sculptors were commissioned by the temple priest Joukou to replace a wooden statue of the Buddha. Originally, the Great Buddha was housed in a wooden building, but it was washed away in a tsunami in September of 1498. Ever since, the Buddha has stood exposed in the elements, perhaps the sole reason for its green color. The statue was made to last, being fashioned from 30 large pieces of bronze – the green color is the result of oxidation.

Today, we are unsure of exactly how the statue was fashioned, though we do know it is an amazingly sophisticated technique. Originally it was covered in gilt which wore off with time and exposure- if one looks closely, the gilt is still visible in the Buddha‘s ears. The Buddha is about 13.35 meters high, weighing about 93 tons and is hollow. Guests of the temple are allowed to climb inside – at one point the Kotoku-in temple was abandoned and a beggar actually lived inside!

Close-up of face- note the ears, third eye and the bump on his head

The hair of the Buddha is represented in exactly 656 small spiral curls (Buddha must always have this many), an allusion to a legend of Prince Siddhartha (the founder Buddhism), who pulled his hair into a top knot and cut it away.After the cut, his hair spiraled into fine curls and he never needed to cut his hair again. The small bump on his head symbolizes the Buddha’s all-knowing mind and fully developed chakra, or energy. The third eye on his forehead represents Buddha’s all-seeing eye, which is made of pure silver; the elongated ears represent the Buddha as all-hearing. His hands are in a meditation position, one which is specific to the Amida Buddha.

Takeji Asano - 1948

I chose this statue because of it’s important cultural and spiritual significance – it is considered one of Japan’s National Treasures, with tourists and pilgrims flocking to it constantly. It has been around for centuries and people have been inspired by it for just as long. Rudyard Kipling composed and poem about it, and numerous artists ancient and current have depicted it throughout the ages (see prints).

Hisashi Tenmyouya - 2001

Personally, I think it’s a very beautiful image – even being imperfect with its stains and green skin. It inspires peace in my mind, when I view it I want to take a moment to stop and just….. breathe.




The Old Palace at Soma: Princess Takiyasha Summoning a Demonic Skeleton to Attack Oya no Taro Mitsukuni (triptych). Utagawa Kuniyoshi c. 1844, British Museum, London

(I highly recommend viewing a larger, cleaner and more detailed copy of the image : http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3a/Mitsukuni_defying_the_skeleton_spectre_invoked_by_princess_ Takiyasha.jpg)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi’s triptych print is a perfect example of Ukiyo-e, Japanese ‘Floating World’ Prints. I find this period in Japan really interesting because it was totally cut off from the rest of the world (except for limited trade with Korea), and was under the rule of the Tokugawa family’s military dictatorship for almost 200 years! The Tokugawa clan was known for it’s ironclad rules, regulations and numerous bans. Bans were placed upon gambling, the extravagance of the lower classes (people were literally not allowed to display clothes finer than their station), prostitution and theater. Often, these things occurred anyway, as the merchant class grew and become wealthy, the red light district flourished. From the red light district theater and art expanded as well. It is from this district in Kyoto that the name Ukiyo-e emerges, as it was often referred to as the “Floating World”. It was during this time that Kuniyoshi’s piece was printed, depicting the legend of Princess Takiyasha, who is a daughter of Masakado, a member of the fallen leaders of Japan, the Taira clan – a true (if highly romanticized) story! The scene takes place at the ruined palace Soma, where Takiyasha lives as a sorceress, plotting revenge. She sits to the side, in a room with broken blinds, summoning a skeleton specter from a scroll to combat the samurai Mistukuni. The samurai has been sent to subjugate conspirators against the court.
The year the print was created, a new kabuki version of this legend had been released as well. However, due to the Tokugawa government’s bans, no portraits of the actors could be released, as had always been customary. The print is a disguised scene from the performance, which can be seen by looking at the third human, a man with a fierce looking face. In fact, his face is actually covered in kabuki makeup. The print seems to more like a social commentary; Kuniyoshi’s Ukiyo-e were known for their history, drama and supernaturalism, as well as their satirical value.
I love the piece for a variety of reasons: not only because it is a perfect example of Ukiyo-e, or because it’s a strong and beautiful work of art, but also because it reflects the culture and dissonance of the time. Its very striking, which is amazing when one considers that Kuniyoshi was even forbidden from using certain colors.


images found on wikipedia.org
Japanese Art by Tomoko Sato
Tales of the Heike translated and edited by A. L. Sadler

Environmental art is typically temporary, often not intended to last for longer than a few hours.Often environmental art is meant to improve or broaden ones relationship with the natural world. Environmental art can also refer to art which deals with ecological issues in a social context. Often environmental art is associated with sculpture or photography.

"Incredible Serpentine Root", Andy Goldworthy, created in??

This piece by Andy Goldworthy is just really cool. It is a great example of environmental art, as it’s very transitory, one expects the sand to wash away at any moment. Andy Goldworthy is one of my favorite environmental artists, due to the simple and elegant nature of his work.

"Icicle Star", joined with saliva, Andy Goldworthy, date??

I could almost consider Goldworthy’s art as “found art” due to the high availability of his materials – he generally seems to use objects that are easily and naturally available. For example, in Icicle Star above, he uses not only naturally found icicles, but combines them together with his own saliva – talk about an opportunist.

"Goosefeathers", Andy Goldworthy, date??? Could not find any dates on the webpage...

I also really like his goal, which is to better understand nature by participating in it.. It’s a humble and simple goal which mirrors his humble art, like Goosefeathers, found above.

This is especially evident when one considers how other types of environmental art are trying to stir the masses, like the following artists.

"Wrapped Coast", by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, One Million Square Feet, Little Bay, Australia, 1968-69

This installation by the Claude’s depicts a wrapped up coast, which literally spanned one million square feet. This is a great example of environmental art, as it is obviously not intended to last, but it’s huge and very dramatic, immediately grabbing the viewer’s attention. The piece was held together for 10 weeks, and then disassembled with all materials being recycled.

"Wrapped Walk Ways", by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Loose Park, Kansas City, Missouri. 1977-78

One of the things I admire about the Claude’s work is the highly public nature. While I’m not 100% sure of what the Claude’s message is, I would argue that the main idea is to bring the public’s attention to the area involved in the piece. For example, the wrapped coast, or the wrapped walkaways are directly in the public sphere… the viewer has no choice but to become involved in the work (especially the walkway!), and it seems to almost challenge the viewer.

"Give if you can, take if you have to" by Jacek Tylicki, Palolem Island, India 2008

This is one of my favorite environmental art pieces, by Jacek Tylicki. I like that it is more social than ecological in it’s nature. It’s simple and has a clear, direct message, allowing the viewer to interact in almost infinite ways. What is especially interesting about it is that it’s constantly able to change – not just the physical nature of it (though the objects do change), but also depending upon how people engage themselves in it, the message can change. For example, if a passerby takes the money, but doesn’t need it, what is that saying about our society?

Environmental art is incredibly interesting and I had no exposure to it before this course. I learned a lot through this assignment and I hope I was a little interesting to you. 🙂






Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, 137.4 in x 305.5 in, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain.

Picasso’s Guernica depicts the bombing of the little village of Spanish city of Guernica. The town was chosen on behalf of Franco, Spain’s fascist dictator, to be the test site of German incendiary and high explosive bombs. The town is bombed for over three hours and as the town crumbles away, over sixteen hundred civilians are killed or wounded. Guernica burns for three days and the world looks on in outrage. For Picasso, the black and white photos of the aftermath are stunning and in his mind, the painting begins to surface.

The painting itself is huge and consists of a simple color scheme, black and white and blue – perhaps mirroring the images Picasso himself viewed. Outside of the actual subject matter, it seems that Picasso left little as to the exact meaning of the piece – speculations have abounded since it’s initial creation. One thing seems clear, however, Guernica depicts atrocities of war, challenging previous interpretations of war as heroic, exposing it as a brutality of humanity. The painting is a jumbled mess of figures, their faces wide-eyed and open mouthed in panic. On one side, a woman clutches her child, her mouth open in what must be a scream. A man’s body lies upon the ground underneath a panicked horse, and peoples faces emerge from windows, amazed at the atrocities before them. The insanity of the situation is reflected in the piece, with line and form becoming the most important aspects. The painting is almost technical in its use of line, perhaps relating to the barbarous use of technology in the Great War.

The influence of “modern warfare”, of World War I is evident, to be sure. It was called the “War to End All Wars” for a good reason – the first war to be a truly brutal and horrific war. It included monstrous technologies as weapons – tanks, airplanes, grenades, all capable of taking down entire cities and hundreds of people at once. Poison gas and machine guns, a new type of horror, which mercilessly mowed over walls of humans, crippling or deforming thousands of men and woman. Guernica is now renowned for being the anti-war symbol, inspiring the true horrors of modern warfare into the viewer. The chaos of Picasso’s Guernica reveals all of this thought at once, of what people are truly capable to doing to one another. However, as we know, the true atrocities of the Second World War were only evident with the uncovering of the Nazi concentration camps, six years after Guernica’s creation. Apparently, the profound power of Picasso’s masterpiece only demonstrates and warns of so much.

Works Cited:



Impressionism – in fact it is my favorite art movement; the use of light and the fleeting effect of the captured moment, as well as the brushstrokes and texture visible in the works. In particular, I really love the post-impressionists and the connection with Ukiyo-e, or Japanese prints, which is another great artistic style. I have a huge enthusiasm for this period so please bear with me… Also, for all artwork information, please hover mouse over image.

Woman Wiping Sweat by Kitagawa Utamaro

What first drew me to the style was the fact that it was inspired by Japanese Ukiyo-e; I am a History/JPN major and so have a great appreciation for the historical and cultural value of these works. The works themselves are known for their bold compositions, minimal shading and flat surfaces spanned with bold colors. It seems to me that Ukiyo-e artist’s use the policy of “less is more”, and by avoiding the intense realism of western art (namely shading), there is more dependent upon composition and line…. oftentimes creating a strong and bold work.  Though Japanese artist’s of that era had no exposure  to any western culture at all, let alone art.

One of the more well-known of these print-makers was Kitagawa Utamaro, who and demonstrates the Ukiyo-e style with a master’s hand.

by Mary Cassatt - 1890-91, 34.5x21.1 cm, Art Institute of Chicago

The Letter by Mary Cassatt

The flat colors, bold lines and compositions of such works were a huge influence on the French Impressionists, particularly Mary Cassatt, whose own work was full of simplified forms and flat colors in imitation of the Ukiyo-e. The influence is particularly evident in her work, The Letter. Compare with Utamaro’s Woman Wiping Sweat and the similarity in line and use of color, as well as subject is clear. Of course, Cassatt took the influence and created many of her own masterpieces.

One of my favorite aspects of Impressionist art is the loose, flowing brushstrokes, which are also a huge defining feature of Impressionism. I find this style incredibly expressive and a great response to Ukiyo-e. One of my favorite artist’s of the Impressionist movement is Gustave Caillebotte, whose works are full of these loose brushstrokes, as well as the dappled-light which Impressionism is known for. The Impressionists seemed to want to capture a fleeting moment with their use of light. The loose brushstrokes and the dabs of broken color, which, when the viewer steps away, cohere visually and form a vague impression of the subject. Hence the term ‘impressionism’ (in my personal opinion).

Boulevard Seen From Above by Gustave Caillebotte

Caillebotte’s  work shown below demonstrates these traits well, and also boasts a  bold composition and viewpoint, much like the Ukiyo-e.

As time passes, eventually impressionism further evolves; this particular change is called Post-impressionism. Post-impressionism is hard for me to define; it seems to differ from Impressionism, indeed, yet each of the artist’s from the movement utilize different many different techniques. There seem to be recurring trends of vibrant colors, however – the use of color is incredibly important and no longer depends upon Impressionism’s pastels and dappled light.

Faaturuma by Paul Gauguin

Paul Gauguin’s work exaggerates the color, and makes use of solid lines and flat forms. When one compares Faaturuma to Caillebotte’s Boulevard, one can see the main difference between Impressionistic style and Gauguin-style post-impressionism is that Gauguin, though making his strokes visible, they hardly blend or are ‘broken dabs of color’.

In fact, in regarding the elements at use, I would say that Gauguin’s style is very similar to Ukiyo-e. Line and solid form seem to be the most important aspects of each respective style. I daresay that Gauguin’s style is an exact blending of Impressionism and Ukiyo-e, but that’s only my opinion.

But, I cannot talk about this artistic movement without also referring to one of my favorite artists- Vincent van Gogh.

Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum by Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh is also well-known for his use of vibrant colors, but also his amazing texture. His brushstrokes are so visible, in fact, that the thick oil paint is actually built up off the canvas.

If one were to view his work in detail, the paints thickness is clearly visible. While van Gogh certainly did not depict light in then same way that the Impressionists were known for, I would maintain that he does concern himself with it’s properties. In Cafe Terrace, the light seems to be exaggerated to a great deal, giving the Cafe a intimate feeling. The stars and windows along the street almost glow with warmth.Van Gogh is also known for placing more importance upon his emotions than actually depicting a subject as it was; he is quoted in letters to Theo van Gogh (his brother): “It is color not locally true from the point of view of the stereoscopic realist, but color to suggest the emotion of an ardent temperament.” This is particularly evident in van Gogh’s Night Cafe, filled with clashing reds and greens of the most vibrant. Again, as van Gogh himself says,  “In my picture of the Night Café I have tried to express the idea that the café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime. So I have tried to express, as it were, the powers of darkness in a low public house… the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green.”

Night Cafe by Vincent van Gogh

Gauguin and van Gogh were known for being friends and living together for a time in Arles, evident in some of their paintings, of each other or the same subjects. Both artists seem to depend upon an exaggeration or distortion of color to depict emotions or symbols- perhaps due to their close association. For an interesting comparison of van Gogh’s Night Cafe, see Gauguin’s companion piece located here.

Each of these artists and pieces are some of my favorite works and artists. I hope I didn’t overload you with artwork or anything. 🙂

Works Cited:

images taken from various google results;

artwork information from artchive.com and wikipedia.org.








Thomas Gainsborough, Blue Boy, Oil on canvas, 70 inches by 48 inches,  circa 1770, currently residing in Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Gainsborough’s famous portrait of the Blue Boy is a wonderful example of Rococo artwork from the Classical era. The piece demonstrates almost to a ‘T’ the various aspects of Rococo art: details, special attention paid to highlights, delicate form of the figure, pastel-like colors, and is, in effect a romanticized portrait of a young man with a rounded and glowing face.  The piece is done in Gainsborough’s typical free and elegant style, with rapid and light brushstrokes and an evanescent feel. Personally, I feel that Gainsborough’s style is possibly a precursor to Impressionism style, with his visible brushstrokes and delicate colors.

The painting itself is believed to be a portrait of Jonathan Buttall, the son of a wealthy merchant, and it known from luminescent probing that there is another painting beneath Blue Boy. According to one source, Gainsborough painted this particular piece in response to his rival Joshua Reynolds commenting that “light in a picture be always of a warm, mellow colour… for this purpose to [set off these warm colours]… a small proportion of cold colour will be sufficient. Let this conduct be reversed: let the light be cold, and the surrounding colour warm… and it will be out of the power of art… to make a picture splendid and harmonious.” (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blue_Boy)

Beyond all of this, I believe that Blue Boy also demonstrates Enlightenment thinking in action, in particular, rational humanism, or the idea that humans should be free to think and learn. The reason for this is that Gainsborough was able to take Reynolds comments and respond to them in a powerful and memorable way. Gainsborough himself was known for being inspired by the works of Van Eyck and Rubens, but also from being able to assimilate his own personal style and ideas what he learned from the masters. Truly a great example of Classical art and artist.

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes, Oil on canvas, 158.8cm x 125.5 cm, circa 1611-12, currently resides in Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte in Naples.

Gentileschi’s Judith is a powerful and dramatic painting. It convey’s the biblical (Old Testament) story of a Jewish woman (Judith) who infiltrates an enemy camp to slay the Assyrian leader, Holofernes. Beyond this face-value meaning however, is a deeper and much more emotional message; shortly before this painting was created, the artist Artemisia was raped by her teacher and then humiliated in court for being a “loose woman”; the painting is probably a response to that experience. I can personally see the anger that Artemisia must have felt in this painting. Judith is not just brutally slaying Holofernes, she seems to have a sense of justice and strength in her expression. According to critics, some detail of the painting has been lost due to poor restoration, in particular the furrows of concentration in her brow.

This piece is a perfect example of a Baroque era painting, as it not only makes use of several of the techniques whihc become refined at this time, but it also is a great representation of the Counter Restoration set forth by the Council of Trent. Judith makes a great use of the Chiaroscuro technique, in which there is great contrast between light and dark to make the piece more dramatic. As well as this, Judith uses several other Baroque techniques, including realistic figures (which were often painted from life, though I don’t know if this one made use of models), extreme details, and rich colors. The Council of Trent would have prized this piece (though perhaps may have had issues with the extreme brutality of the scene…) for the interpretation of a biblical scene. Ideally, the Council wanted art to convey a sense of drama and realism while communicating a biblical message. Most importantly, art should be easy to understand – certainly Gentileschi remained faithful to these standards as set forth by the Council.

Interestingly, while each of Artmemisia’s paintings convey a biblical scene of some sort, they all feature women. This must be appreciated when one takes into account that the artist was one of the only well-known female artists of the time period, and probably had a strong sense of feminism. Beyond this, all of Artemisia’s paintings are of a highly emotional nature, and many (if not all) of them can be taken into the context of her life. Overall, I really loved looking at her work and felt a lot of respect for her as an artist, especially because she used her creativity as a means of dealing with the difficulties of life. I would highly reccomend purusing the site on Gentileschi if you haven’t already (http://www.artemisia-gentileschi.com/index.shtml) in particular taking the “Tour”, for a complete chronological breakdown of her art in relation to her life – it’s very powerful!

Sandra Botticelli

Sandra Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (circa roughly 1490) was incredibly large painting, 184.5 x 285.5 feet, with the figure of Venus being almost life size. The piece is inspired by the mythology of Venus’ creation: the god Zeus is ordered by his mother Gaea to castrate his brother the Titan Uranus. Uranus dies and as his genitals hit the sea and mixed with the foam, Venus was born. In the painting itself, Zephyr (the Western Wind) and Chloris (or Flora, the goddess of flowers) symbolize spiritual passions and are both helping to usher Venus to the shore by blowing a wind. Hora, the summer Goddess is welcoming Venus with a gorgeous cloak. When Venus arrives upon the island of Cyprus, a rosebush had blossomed, hence the use of the roses in the wind.

The painting was commissioned in Florence by the Medici family – Lorenzo de Medici to be specific, for a family member’s wedding. Evidence of this can be seen in the painting by the use of the orange tree’s, groves of which the Medici were known to have. The figure of Venus herself is done in a very classical style, covering her body modestly similar to the Venus Medici (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Venus_medici_pushkin.jpg). Venus is very stylized, with rather elongated limbs which differs from much of the work of other artist’s like da Vinci or Michelangelo, who had a very realistic interpretation of the human figure. Some believe Venus’ elongated form and limbs are a precursor to the mannerist style, however, I myself maintain that the painting is very humanistic in style. Venus’s figure is very free flowing and natural-looking, despite the elongation and the focus on the beauty of Venus’ nude body and the story behind the painting are the defining aspects of it’s humanistic nature. Added on top of all of this, the Birth of Venus is a very pagan story, and though it is telling the story of a divine and God-inspired beauty, it is not a painting that the church would have approved of. In fact, it is highly surprising the Venus survived Savonarola’s Bonfire of Vanities, particularly considering we know of the Botticelli’s involvement in burning many of his own pieces.


Myself, a few months ago

My name is Stephanie Bedwell and I am a student at University of Alaska Fairbanks. I am a double major in History and Japanese Studies, though recently I have been considering switching the History to Education or maybe Business, so that I might fully utilize my Japanese skills. But I do love History….

I am 22 years old, and my boyfriend and I are expecting our first child in early March, Joseph Robert. I’m really looking forward to being  a mother, but I’m really nervous.

My hobbies are reading and drawing. I hope that by taking this course, I will be inspired to create art, as it’s been a while since I last painted. With any luck, maybe I will share some pieces here. 🙂 Nice to meet everyone and I hope you all have a great semester.



Self portrait, 2005-ish

Haruki Murakami

"The wind has its reasons. We just don't notice as we go about our lives. But then, at some point, we are made to notice. The wind envelops you with a certain purpose in mind, and it rocks you. The wind knows everything that's inside you. And not just the wind. Everything, including a stone. They all know us very well. From top to bottom. It only occurs to us at certain times. And all we can do is go with those things. As we take them in, we survive, and deepen."

Joel Robert Carter