The Fox’s Wedding

paper mixed media tableau of two kitsune spirits in kimonos getting married

In Japan, I am told that when the sun is shining brightly through the rain, they say “Today is a good day for foxes” or “Today is a good day for a fox to get married.” Such days are supposed to be dear to kitsune, the mischievous fox spirits of Japanese legend.

A couple of years back I determined to try and do a piece based on the idea of a kitsune wedding. But all my efforts to make a digital painting or drawing left me unsatisfied. Finally, I hit upon an unusual idea. I would make paper dolls from origami paper and stage a diorama where the foxes marched in their wedding procession. A red candle served as the curved red bridge that so many of us think of when we think of Asian imagery, and a rippling blue and gold scarf made a lovely river. I folded origami trees, painted a sunny yellow background and placed old soapstone fish in the river beneath the bridge. My paper foxes were aided by pipe-cleaner skeletons to stay upright, and one bold little fox held aloft a ribbon banner fixed to a chopstick. And so my fox wedding was born!

I photographed my fox dolls in different situations, doing another series of photos of two girl foxes carrying a lantern through a dark forest. I’ll post more photos of my fox photo-session later, along with this other series “Enchanted Forest.” But for now, I hope you enjoy my wedding foxes on their special day! …a sunny, and rainy, day.

O-Iwa and Iyemon

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

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.

Rhyme and Reason and my Kids Book obsession

a picture with a fairy castle in the clouds made out of paper collaged onto an old page from The Phantom Tollbooth

This is a little quasi-3D piece I did for two very close friends as a Christmas present a couple of years back. I used a deep frame I found along with a scan of a page of one of my favorite children’s books, The Phantom Tollbooth. This page introduces the twin princesses Rhyme and Reason, rulers of the kingdom of Wisdom. After the princesses were imprisoned in the Castle in the Air, the kingdom of Wisdom fell into chaos. Since my two friends remind me of these princesses, the page seemed ideal. I scanned it to get that nice yellowed color (it’s from the 1960’s).

I made little rolls of paper to act as supports for the clouds and part of the balcony of the Castle in the Air, and cut everything else out of origami paper which I then drew on with white and black ink. My friend Amy Wilke of Paper Raven Art + Design does this kind of thing all the time, a lot better, and would probably wince at the methods I used. But I managed to achieve something workable.

On a side note, I adore children’s/young adult books and still buy them for myself often. Books like The Phantom Tollbooth and The Faery Flag are chock-full of interesting ideas, while no one who’s ever shuddered at Stephen Gammell’s illustrations for the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy or seen the breathtaking art of a Leo Lionni book will soon forget it. If I ever do a children’s book, I will consider it a high point of my career and not some sort of emergency financial concession.

The Art Vault 4: Bind

a sad woman with a ponytail crumpled up and drawn with an almost rock-like texture using charcoals, surrounded by white stitching

I’m honestly not sure when this is from…at a guess, 2001 or 2002 at the latest. I used charcoal to draw the woman and managed to get a nice rocky texture for her skin by using the sides of my charcoal stick. (it happened as an accident the first time, like most of what I do.) I added to her sense of confinement and hopelessness by stitching the matboard around her with embroidery floss.

I thought she was sold for the longest time, but then she turned up again the other day. I guess she’s imprisoned by my horrible storage techniques. I’ll try and remember to actually take her to my next show.

The Art Vault 3: Moon-Making

an old watercolor and pen and ink by sandpaperdaisy

This is a very old work, back from when I didn’t have a scanner and I had to get my friend to try and scan my things for me on her ancient, horrible scanner or snap pictures of them. …so you can probably guess what’s up with the image quality.

Regardless, this is a watercolor with pen and ink that I made of some sort of goddess or Artemis-like figure with her back turned to us, making moons out of the formless void. I’m very fond of it, and I hope I find the thing again someday! I think it may be somewhere among my things but I don’t even know for sure.

Miao Yin final piece and progress shots!

inspired by cult movie classic Big Trouble in Little China

I hope to post a nice little feature on the Big Lebowski in Little China show soon, but in the meantime I can definitely show you the evolution of Miao Yin from a digital painting to a beaded mixed-media piece with gold ink accents! (I ended up calling the final piece “Miao Miao” through some perverse desire to be a truly horrible person.)

This piece is at PG Gallery until May 17 2014 and is only $85. And trust me, I’m not making another beaded one. One was quite enough!! *PHEW!*

EDIT: This lovely piece has found a home with its biggest fan! I even got to talk to the person who got it, she’s super-sweet. There’s just nothing like seeing one of your pieces go home with someone you know loves it.