japonisme: women and nature

10 July 2008

women and nature

(and to finish off our series of (mostly) american women printmakers,
i offer you....)

“I am thinking of the communion I felt as a child in the Sierra under trees or in fields of wildflowers. I told no one what I felt. In my small world, no one referred to mystical experience, even in the church I attended.

I had not yet read Emerson, nor had I heard the story of how, as a young man, when John Muir discovered a cluster of rare orchids, called Calypso borealis, growing by the edge of an icy pond, deep in the outback of Ontario, he sat down and wept for joy, feeling that he ‘was in the presence of superior beings who loved me and beckoned me to come.’”

Susan Griffin 1
from HOUSE of STONE and SONG

Because we live in a country where
no one I know
sings to God in the streets,
I’m given to wandering past margins of fern and wild honeysuckle,

following the burr of the tanager, that lazy, drowsy
dozy buzz of triple notes
tied close together. I’m tethered and led, legato,

deeper in, beyond cedar field and hardscrabble, through
grapevine, bullbrier,
gloves of rhododendron and laurel lamp-lighting my way

over Indian graves and wetland, hellebore and hummock,
into the tall trees where
that flash of pure fire finds its high-branch summer niche.

Perhaps I want to be the crazy woman
who lives on roots and berries
in the only woods abandoned to her....

— Margaret Gibson 2

Far from the sea, the lilies grow
and listen for the sea.

Long ago, they bloomed near the shore,
and the small crustaceans,
red-backed crabs,
scurried under the pale exotic plants
that rocked on thin stems
half-flower, half-shell.

It’s a long way from the beginning.

The heavenly beasts appear in the sky,
since the first seeds fell on the fields
in a green rain,
and men climbed from the water
on two legs,
unsteady as baby goats.

In the wind now
the white flowers rise and bend
in the grass, like the heads of sheep.
Behind the mountains
the waves rise and fall. The stars open.

No one has left the garden.

— Barbara Jordan 3

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Blogger Neil said...

Thinking about women printmakers influenced by a Japanese aesthetic, I wonder if you have ever come across the work of Elizabeth Keith. She was a Scottish artist, who went to Japan during WWI and became enraptured with Japanese art. She was visiting, or possibly just living with, her sister Elspet Keith Robertson Scott, and brother-in-law J. W. Robertson Scott. J. W. Robertson Scott was a pacificist, and although too old to be called up just hoofed off to Japan for the duration of the war. He founded and edited the first dual-language Japanese-English journal, The New East, and also walked all over Japan to research and write the book The Foundations of Japan, about Japanese agriculture. He also took hundreds of photographs of Japna, which seem to have disappeared. Anyway, they all became friends with Yanagi Muneyoshi (Yanagi Soetsu), the Japanese arts and crafts guru, who provided notes to Elizabeth and Elspet's book Old Korea, The Land of Morning Calm, 1946. Elizabeth Keith was entranced by Japan, and her work seems to me to be a kind of English equivalent of that of Bertha Lum. However, I've been able to find out very little about her. I know there is a collection of work by her in the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. She is supposed to have become quite a well-known artist in Japan, working in the Japanese woodblock print tradition in collaboration with Shozaburo Watanabe. When they returned to Britain after the war, the Robertson Scotts and Elizabeth Keith settled in the village where I live, Idbury in Oxfordshire. In the 1920s they were a natural port of call for Japanese visitors to England, including the poet and folklorist Yanagita Kunio.

13 July, 2008 15:01  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

wow neil -- i'm so glad you showed up. and what synchronicity: the post that follows this one, that i've been working on for the last few days, is about a number of the printmakers who went to japan to study. keith's not in this post but in an upcoming one.

such interesting info -- thank you. i'll see if i can trace down a bit more, but you're right. so far i've been able to track down many fewer of her pieces that some of the others.

what i have learned is that a number of the westerners who hooked up with watanabe did very well commercially, as did a good number of the japanese artists themselves.

13 July, 2008 16:35  
Blogger Neil said...

Synchronicity is my speciality!
I'm very interested by what you say in the following post, and look forward to the upcoming ones.
I think there was around this time a good deal of well-meant but not very successful copying in both directions between Japan and the west in both art and literature. All very interesting, though.
Especially in this case where my interest in Elizabeth Keith is essentially to do with local history (my house is built in what was the vegetable garden of the house where she lived with the Robertson Scotts) rather than art.
Not that I'm not interested in her as an artist, and the cultural context of her work. Do you think that Yanagi would have been her link to Watanabe? Is there a connection between the two?
You might be interested to know that when the potter Bernard Leach visited the Robertson Scotts in Idbury on May 13th, 1926, he wrote a line of Japanese in their visitors' book, which translates as ‘When we talk together, I remember Abiko’. This is a reference to the home of Yanagi, outside Tokyo; Scott and Leach must have visited his house, which is now the Tokyo Arts and Crafts Museum, together. Scott describes a visit there in The Foundations of Japan.

15 July, 2008 14:59  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i can think of few better reasons! the vegetable garden. i love it.

do you have the book "the new wave"? it's shin hanga from the robert o muller collection. i was poking around looking for some of her stuff (and did find one i haven't seen elsewhere at soas, so thanks!) and the exhibit the book was from was mentiioned. i pulled it down off the shelf and found some great stuff. will take me a bit to digest it all.

i'll see if any of your questions are addressed.

15 July, 2008 16:01  
Blogger Neil said...

I'll have to try to see The New Wave in a library - I can only find one copy for sale and that's £361!

16 July, 2008 00:48  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

yikes! and it was already $100 at a used bookstore 15 years ago! except that i was still publishing my magazine at that time, and i got sent a lot of books in which i had zero interest. so i'd take them to said bookstore for trade-slips, then get what i wanted!

meanwhile, i'm working on a post that i think will interest you!

16 July, 2008 06:39  

Post a Comment

hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

<< Home

newer posts older posts