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Windows: The Viewfinder to Our World



You know the old saying, "which came first, the chicken or the egg"? This is what comes to mind when I have gone back and looked over the body of my works and I became aware of how often I have painted something frame by a window. Somewhere in time I was inspired or drawn to use this theme often. And I think of two instances that could have worked windows into my subconscious. There being the question, which came first?


As a lover of art history, I used most of my elective classes at the university to further my knowledge of art history. And as a teacher, I used famous artists and their works to help introduce every new lesson I taught. But I became aware in my teaching that I had very little knowledge of Asian art. As I taught many students with Asian heritage, I felt that I was lacking in this area needed to know more about their culture.


After Hurricane Katrina, I had the opportunity to take a graduate level class on Asian study through The Croft Institute for International Studies at The University of Mississippi. The course included all aspects of Asian culture, not just art. As the class came to a close, we all had to prepare two lessons to present to the class. The first lesson I presented was on Japanese Sumi'-e Painting, but the second was on Japanese Zen Gardens. Through this study I learned the importance of bringing the outside world into our inside space through the use of windows. The window allowed us a "gate" or passage into the outside space. Each area seen from a window should have the same aesthetic use as a framed painting would on an interior wall.


The other influence of my "window" as subject matter was a lesson I taught on Henri Matisse. He too used windows in many of his paintings throughout his art career. It didn't matter which period of his career he was painting, he would return to include the window as a means of showing both his inside space to the outside world.


These two lessons that I taught over the years, I feel, had an unintentional influence on many of my paintings. I think I just absorbed them into my art psyche. Hence, I don't know which came first, Japanese Zen Gardens or Matisse's Windows: the chicken or the egg. But I would like to think that Matisse might also have been influenced by the Japanese Garden theology. Japan having just opened to trade with the western world and the artists of that time had a fascination with everything Japanese.


So, as I put my garden back after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, I do think I consciously tried to create a view from each window, using the East Asian concept of "shakkei", which translates to "borrowed landscape". To let the inside seamlessly connect to the outside setting. To embrace the beauty of each season. To bring the beauty of the outside landscape to the inside space. It could accomplished by placing a flower in a vase on a table by a window. Or finding the window with the perfect light for your orchid to continue to bloom. Or bringing fresh grown lemons grown in the yard to sit on the windowsill looking into the outside space. I share with you my experience of the beauty of the outside world brought inside with the colors and scents of my lemons grown from my own Meyer Lemon tree, Lemons on the Windowsill.


Thanks for connecting,

Cissy

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