from the first big kaidan, a noh play about a faithless murdering husband and his vengeful wife.

O-Iwa and Iyemon

O-Iwa, the woman with the bird skull, and Iyemon, the terrified man drawing his weapon, are a diptych I did for my Patchwork Dragon solo show at Winzerwald Evansville Wine Tasting Room. I decoupaged origami paper, typing paper and joss paper (ghost money) on wood. Incidentally, while I wanted to use “ghost money” paper in a piece about an Asian ghost legend, I did NOT use the actual ghost money itself, white paper with a silver square in the middle. It can be insulting or alarming to use those publicly as some people think it is ill luck to look at them. Finally, I augmented each piece with black and white ink and comic zipatone. Below the images is a short description of the story these pieces are based upon.

O-Iwa and Iyemon are an iconic husband and wife from Yotsuya Kaidan (四谷怪談), the most famous Japanese horror story of all time. The story is rather long and complicated, but in short Iemon/Iyemon, the husband, became tired of his devoted and loving wife O-Iwa. Wanting to marry a richer and more influential woman, Iyemon poisoned O-Iwa shortly after she bore their child. O-Iwa did not die but became horribly disfigured, and ultimately took her own life. At Iyemon’s wedding, her vengeful disfigured ghost appeared right in front of his new bride. Enraged, he drew his sword to slay the spirit, and in so doing ended up killing the bride.

I created the ghostly O-Iwa with a bird skull as a substitution for her horribly disfigured face. Many of the pieces in Patchwork Dragon involved skeletal imagery, so I wanted to retain the theme as well as portray O-Iwa in a way she’s hopefully never been seen before. Ghostly blue flames (kaika) creep up the side of the screen next to her, while threatening black flames hover on either side of her and swarm around Iyemon’s scabbard, foreshadowing the horrible mistake he is about to be led into. The screen on the two pieces lines up perfectly so that when hung together, O-Iwa is clearly seen as advancing on the horrified and guilty Iyemon.

Sadly, this couple was separated! I only have Iyemon left now, frozen in the eternal fear his abominable actions have condemned him to suffer for all time. If you wish to have him, contact me and we’ll talk.

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