Sacred and Fatal February 1, 2013Posted by Mark Folse in art, cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, quotes, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Louise Bourgeois
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“Self-expression is sacred and fatal. It’s a necessity.”
– Louise Bourgeois
Odd Words Update January 13, 2013Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, literature, Mid-City, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, publishing.
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A correction & an addition: Special Tea at 4337 Banks Street is now the home of Spoken Word New Orleans’ Sunday event. They also host another event on Wednesdays:
& Wednesday nights from 7-10 Lyrics and Laughs bridges comedy and poetry featurig performers from both genres at Special Tea, 4337 Banks St.
& The new Sunday show from Spoken Word New Orleans is Poetry and Paint Brushes. Poets perform as our resident artists paints the crowd and performers. Also at Special Tea, 4337 Banks Street. No longer at the Bayou Road location.
If you host events be sure to keep email@example.com in he loop.
Please Don’t Call Me Ishmael September 11, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in art, cryptic envelopment, Toulouse Street.
Tags: a3 blackface #59, Ahab, fail whale, great white whale, iona rozeal brown, Ishmael, Mocha Dick, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, VMFA
Or, How I Came to Encounter the Great White Fail Whale on a Voyage to the Wind-Swept Concrete Seas of Richmond, VA.
It began with a telephone call to my replacement. He was late into his second week of day-long huddles in a tiny room at Moloch’s in-name-only tower in downtown New Orleans, and LT–he goes by LT, and is every bit a small-town boy from a little place just outside Richmond–was catching on quick and enjoying himself thoroughly. Having found a good thing on his first night out to dinner, I believe he has now his own waiter at the Palace Cafe and a cocktail waiting for him by the time he is seated.. His wife called on Thursday of that second week and informed him that he would have sole custody of his two young sons for the coming weekend, because she was running away with her girlfriends to places unspecified. Perhaps an island in the tropical reaches of the vast Southern Ocean. Or Ocean City, which is for some people the next best thing.
It was clearly my turn to go to Richmond. And I had an ulterior motive. On returning from my last trip to Richmond I arrived too early at the airport and found myself first in the gift shop, and ultimately in Applebees. You might not be sure which is worse, killing time in an airport gift shop or eating a blackened chicken salad at Applebees (which was more than tolerable), but in truth I left the gift shop with an illustrated Poe for my son and a tin of Absinthe-flavored mints but not with a tee-shirt I had hesitated over for half an hour. In the long run, my salad and rum-and-tonic with a Vicodin (I was just over some surgery) turned out to be the better half of the deal, for I ended up not purchasing the shirt and regretting that decision almost from the moment they closed the cabin doors.
I didn’t purchase the shirt, placed in the gift shop by the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, because I did not much care for the quote on the back (I have nothing against Rilke, mind you) but it seemed completely unrelated to the art on the front. Ah, but the art on the front. It haunted me the entire flight back, spoiling my Vicodin happiness at ending a week of business travel and returning home.
The front piece was a screen reproduction of artist iona rozeal brown’s “a3 blackface #59″ (yes she writes her name in all lower case, and titles her paintings in the same manner). According to the small catalog book I purchased today, brown “unites[s] African-American and East Asian cultures. Her paintings resemble nineteenth century Japanese ukiyo-e wookdblock prints, but they present contemporary urban characters included by hip-hop.” I think they neglect to mention that there is a hint of manga and anime about the paintings as well.
This is the painting (or rather, tee-shirt) I fell in love with but failed to purchase on my last trip, reproduced as best I can from a small catalog book with my cell phone.
You can view and zoom into the VMFA’s web version here. Notice the legend at the bottom right of image on that web page for there in lies my tale.
I not only agreed to go to Richmond to spare LT’s another week of eating in New Orleans while his wife dished out the mac-and-cheese to the boys, I booked an early Sunday flight for the express purpose of arriving in time and going to the VMFA to sit before this picture for a long time, and collect not just a tee-shirt but any other image I could find: catalog, poster, post card, the whole lot.
I am very fond of Asian art and culture. I’m trying to time a trip to the Birmingham, Ala. Botanical Garden’s Japanese Garden just in time for the maples to turn. I found the juxtaposition of urban American characters in an Asian setting compelling. The fact that one of the subjects was smoking a cigar added a bit. Last, I have begun to grow my hair out into a queue, and the image of the character having his hair braided drove home the last nail. My own is nothing quite like Queequeg’s or the painting’s subject, mind you, but I haven’t ruled out the idea of a few small skull beads of the sort Dr. John favors. (Blame Piano Dave for this last idea. I haven’t gotten that far yet, and I am pretty sure that a braid with skull beads would not go over well at Moloch World Headquarters. I catch enough so far good-natured ribbing for having my hair that long as it is).
I was, frankly, completely smitten by this picture on several levels.
So I arose at 0:my-god-fifteen this morning, a quarter hour ahead of my alarm clock and almost three hours prior to my 7:00 am flight via Philadelphia to Richmond. There were later flights available, the sort that would have been more direct and landed me around 5 p.m. local time, ideal for grabbing the car, getting to the hotel and walking across to the hundreds of beers, quite good food and satellite radio New Orleans music of the Capital Ale House. Instead I chose the 7:00 am because I was obsessed with this image, was determined if necessary to relocate one of the viewing benches and plop myself in front of it for a good hour, then run up as big a bill as necessary in the gift shop.
When I arrived there was a gentleman in a blazer who promptly asked if he could help direct me. I told him what I was looking for, but he was clearly just a docent and had no idea. He led me to the front desk, where everyone was busy ringing up tickets to the big Faberge exhibit but the young man on the end stationed at a computer volunteered to help me. It took him a while to find it, but finally he spun around his monitor and asked, this one?
Yes, I said. Where is that hanging?
He paused for a minute and then told me. It normally hangs in the 21st Century Art gallery on the second floor. However, that space had been cleared to make room for an installation titled Mocha Dick by artist Tristan Lowe. It is in fact a giant, near-life size whale made from industrial felt and an inflatable armature. A whirring fan of the sort that powers inflatable children;’s amusements can be heard keeping the whole thing upright.
I engaged a half-dozen docents in conversation about my disappointment but they appeared to be mostly local college students working out their service requirements. The chances of running into a curator on a Sunday who would hear my tale and be struck by the industry and dedication of getting up at an ungodly hour just to see this one painting and who would take my privately into the back to view it were a hopeless fantasy.
All I could think of was: Fail Whale. My entire plan to book an early flight to spend some quality time ogling this gorgeous painting was spoiled by a Fail Whale. And not just any whale, but a white whale. A white whale great enough to fill the entire 21st Century Art gallery. (I have no idea where the artist gets the title, unless he meant the foam that sits atop his mocha latte).
I would gladly share my queen bed with a scarified stranger performing dark rituals before bedtime that set off the smoke detector for the chance to see the iona rozel brown painting, but instead I got what you see above, and a gorgeous but small (5×5) catalog of the modern art collection, which will end up permanently creased to page 100 on my bookshelf on a plate stand, to display the painting as best I can. because there is not a print, a poster or even a postcard. I’m glad I picked up the tee-shirt at the airport on my way in because they didn’t even have that at the gift shop.
Great White Fail Whale indeed.
I consoled myself with visiting the late 20th Century exhibit, spending entirely too much time in front of their sole Rothko, his rich blacks an antidote to my disappointment in white found where my painting should have been hanging. It’s not a bad collection for a mid-sized city, almost all of it donated by the Sidney and Frances Lewis Foundation. The one Warhol in the collection is based on the series Warhol did of a strip of portraits (Marilyn Monroe being perhaps the most famous example), but this one was from a set of camera booth photographs of Frances Lewis titled something like Sidney’s Harem. It is (thankfully) not in the catalog and I didn’t make a note of the title but I’m pretty sure that’s it.
Not an unpleasant way to spend an afternoon, but like the obsessive Ahab my own fixation was brought to an unhappy end by a great white whale. Nothing to be done, except to put on the tee-shirt and head over to the Capital Ale House to console myself with a few of their hundreds of beers, Belgian frittes and a black-bean burger (think a crab cake made from black beans). I contemplated a bit of absinthe after my visit to the mostly disappointing Edgar Allen Poe museum, but I think a tankard or three of ale is the right remedy for a long voyage come to a disappointing end.
Indians, Cajuns and Cowboys July 4, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in art, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
Tags: George Rodrigue
Toss some bamboo on that fire, chere, its Independence Day.
Read Wendy Rodrigue’s The American Cajun on her blog Musings of an Artist’s Wife, a fine wander through patriotic themed pieces of George Rodrique’s Acadian period.
The Edge of Friday Night January 29, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, blues, French Quarter, music, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Foot and Friends, Kerry Irish Pub, Mem Shannon
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The Kerry Irish Pub is the first bar with music pouring out the door the tourists reach as they enter the quarter from the Casino and the downtown hotels nearest the river. The regulars are crowded up toward the door but the tourists gravitate toward the band for a few songs, as obvious and routine in their appearance as the homeless. A couple wearing feather boas; the three men in odd hats, one in a ten gallon wool hat with a Burger King child’s crown over the crown of the hat, another perhaps in a Carnival-colored jester hat or one of those tall Cat In The Hat numbers: it doesn’t matter. I really don’t remember, just their motleynes, announcing to the world that they are in New Orleans and not at home in Alabama or Arkansas or east Texas in a corporate office park or a construction site, not tonight. They are playing dress up with drinks, a combination of the innocence of childishness and the fervor of youth, the way my daughters guy friends might act when they smuggle beer into the backyard and got into my hats.
You sit in front, listening to the band but you ask the transients between songs where they are from, what they plan to do in New Orleans. They never stay long; all our bound for Bourbon Street: Disneyland Sodom where the only thing real is life of the barkers, the bartenders, the musicians playing endless covers of Lynard Skynard when they pack up for the night and and leave it behind. I live next door to a Bourbon Street guitar player in this dismal shack of a shotgun, so pathetic looking from the outside that when the landlord was doing some work and took off back to Mississippi leaving my door ajar for hours no one came in and cleaned me out. No one was looking for a place to light a crack pipe I guess, or perhaps there is still some honor among the poor. I live on the edge of a gentrified neighborhood and the pickings are better a few blocks over. Taking my bargain basement TV and laptop might strike a little too close to home–who might be robbing their own house of their few ill-gotten things–and the shopping is better up the block. That’s reality, where my neighbor the musician and I live, not the roaring noise of Bourbon.
But the tourists coming in, drawn by the first live band they hear, don’t care. The New Orleans of their dreams is calling, the exotic drinks, the beads and boobs and Big Ass Beers, the daily festival of public drunkenness reserved in their hometowns for a season of Saturdays tailgating before The Big Game, reliving the memory of drunken college parties acted out every night on Bourbon for their entertainment and themselves the star of the production.
I remember a quiet night when a couple and their children stopped outside a bar while the band played a song the parents remembered from their youth, the father explaining to the ‘tweens how they loved that song when they were young and all of them–parents and children alike–staring into the bar over the banister railing that closed off the french doors, the parents lost in a reverie of youth and the children imagining their parents as people young and wild, living out what seems to a twelve-year-old the dream of what life might be if they were only free. I stopped and lit a cigarette that night and watched them until they passed on, imagining the thoughts running through their heads.
You sit at the Kerry with just a few companions in front, the regulars of the bar sitting in the back and the band is just juke box to them, the soundtrack recorded music has taught us to expect of life. The band is a pick up gig. One of your companions is the sister of the drummer and band leader and you know that the regular players were unavailable and the two guitarists are just sitting in for the night. One is an older black blues musician you have hoped to see since a friend gave you an old CD to copy, Mem Shannon, the reason why you came. As the band is unfamiliar it takes them a song or two to fall into the practicality of the blues, a form as stylized as the baroque and and well known to them all so the players quickly pull it together. Shannon plays a red lacquered guitar covered with the dials and switches of the days before every player had a row of effect boxes at this feet, plays with the easy facility of long experience, and you think of B.B. King. The other guitarist is a guy named Danny Dugan, and on his jet black guitar with the whammy bar handing loose and broken he plays in the familiar rock-flavored tenor with occasional metal slide of a llife long fan of Dickie Betts.
They are two men of the same age but different in race, experience, the musicians they emulated. And yet as they play in an unfamiliar combo they follow each other from the corner of their eyes. With an occasional eyebrow arched like inverted slurs they support each other’s solos with perfect rhythm work, two practiced disciples of the blues each in their own style. The band leader gives directions between songs, sings with a voice pure and inspired as gospel for the love of the music. The tourists come and go and none leave anything in the tip jar. The regulars chatter in the back but fill the jar with cash when it is passed, understanding the price of their chosen ambiance. No one except the few of us in front is really paying attention. I sit rapt and follow the the way these two musicians settle into an unfamiliar gig and find a way to make incredible music with the grace of toreadors practicing without a crowd.
I mostly watch Mem Shanon, the fast and delicate finger work, the wrist flicking vibrato, as concert house perfect as any violinist but learned over decades playing to disinterested bars for the pure joy of the music, eyes sometimes closed with a slight smile of delight and other times looking up to the sky as if to search for approval from the God his elders told him hated the devil’s blues, the gospel tempos of the church stolen by scoundrels. I watch him eye the other guitarist as they trade licks just for the pure pleasure of it and the hope of enough in the tip jar and the bar cut to buy them dinner after and a cab home, playing not for the disinterested tourists who drift off to Bourbon or even for the regulars who make offerings to the tip jar the way the jaded fill the collection plate but for the pure love of the music, playing for themselves, for each other as the sort of men who play an edge of the quarter club on a Friday night for tips and drinks because they only want to play, would bring their own beer and find a room and play because they can’t imagine another way to live.
This is how art is born and tradition lives, not because of but in spite of the crowd, because these unfamiliar players share just enough of the vocabulary and are long practiced to make a pick up gig into something wonderful, because they can’t imagine a better way to spend the evening. An audience of two or three is almost irrelevant, but I like to think we add something to the moment, the smoke of our cigarettes rising up to heaven like josh stick offerings to the real heart of why New Orleans is, people who play and live and make an art of life because they can’t imagine another way to be.
Embrace your demons, learn their names January 28, 2011Posted by Mark Folse in art, books, literature.
Tags: Stephen Elliott, TheRumpus.net
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Art is expression, art is laziness. Art is a rejection of capitalism. Lay on the couch, reflect on your experience, your feelings about the world, wait for a flicker of emotion, a ripple along the surface. Reproduce your inner life on a canvas, in a poem, a looping narrative. Redirect your angst into a play. It fails when you don’t go deep enough, when you think what you’re saying is inherently interesting, when you think your audience is your mom. But it’s still art. Art is intent. Art is narcissistic, you have to believe you have something to say, though we’re all so similar. I remember a story of two boys determined to drink a beer with Bukowski, staring through the window to his crappy apartment as he tossed and turned for days without writing a line. Art is the opposite of going to work, [you] have to embrace your demons, learn their names. If you’re absurdly lucky you can make a living off it, which is like winning the lottery, which is like being paid for being alive.
– Stephen Elliott from today’s Rumpus Email.
Pedestrian I: 310 May 10, 2010Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Jazz, Pedestrian I, Toulouse Street.
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“Oh the streets of Rome/Are filled with rubble.
Ancient footprints/Are everywhere.”
–Bob Dylan, “When I Paint My Master Piece”
Mondrian ruins on the hard luck side of Rampart, the pawn shop gone, the facades unredeemed, avoided by spooked rail-pass tourists walking past the remains of the Eagle Saloon wondering where the picturesque history and jazz are hidden.
Dead Dogs Wag No Tails August 14, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in art, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Blue Dog, George Rodrique, roadkill, Thomas Kincade
As I sat in a coffee shop in Carmel-by-the-Sea in California last week, perusing the visitor guide map, I noticed that the Rodrigue and Thomas Kinkade galleries were adjacent to one another and I thought: where else could a single firebomb do so much good? In that vein, I offer you this interesting new grafitti that’s popping up around New Orleans. This example is courtesy of infrogmation.
The Daughters of the Moon February 16, 2009Posted by Mark Folse in art, books, literature.
Tags: Italo Calvino, The New Yorker
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If you are a regular visitor here, there is at least a chance you would enjoy subscribing to the RSS Feed of Fiction and Poetry from the New Yorker. Today’s fiction installment from Italo Calvino was particularly good–if you like that Odd sort of thing as much as we do–a perfect fable for our own time.
So what are you waiting for? Go check out The Daughters of the Moon.
The Lad Searches the Night for His Newts July 27, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, music, oddities, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
Tags: 200 Motels, 504, Frank Zappa, Motorhead, New Orleans, newt, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Theodore Bikel
We interrupt whatever the hell it was you meant to do when you stumbled in here to present this Important Public Service Announcement on the subject of Dental Hygiene.
But first, Motorhead must find his Newts…
Remember: as Theodore Bikel reminds us within the conceptual framework of this filmic event nothing really matters…
Misanthrope Freeway, One Mile… May 23, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Odds&Sods, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Alabama Song, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, Renard Poche, Whiskey Bar, Whisky Bar
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“What do you mean, ‘That was nice?’ That was art. Art isn’t nice.”
– Macheath (Mack the Knife) in the Threepenny Opera
I’m in a mood. Humor me. If you can’t come and buy me a drink somewhere, at least sit back and vid this while I consider the consequences of pouring out a tumbler of the amber rambler. Just be glad I spared you the Marilyn Manson version.
On second thought, don’t come buy me a drink tonight. Buy me one tomorrow at the Rock N Bowl for Renard Poche’s show at 11.
Cherry Blossoms March 29, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, flowers, garden, home, Japan, New Orleans, Toulouse Street, Uncategorized.
Tags: 504, cherry blossoms, haiku, Holiday Innpressionism, Japan, New Orleans, NOLA, spring, Washington D.C.
Sleeping under the trees on Yoshino mountain
The spring breeze wearing Cherry blossom petals
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ~ Saigyo
I deeply love New Orleans and live to see my first azalea or crepe myrtle in bloom, even if it getting too warm too soon by then. When I felt compelled to leave by personal and professional circumstance, I came to live for eight years in Washington, D. C. or thereabouts. The first real community of friends met online (out of the BBS world) was there, some of the finest people I’ve ever met. I spent some years walking the marble corridors of power until my feet gave out and I decided I had the wrong attitude for Washington: I work for my boss, but you other 534 assholes work for me. That is not the path to K Street.
I met my wife Rebecca there at the Warner Theater. I had come stag to see the Neville Brothers, she and her roommate to see the Nighthawks who shared the bill. We met in the smokers lobby buying a beer. Two years later we were married (in North Dakota, not Washington) and our first house together was on 4th Street N.E. Our daughter Killian was born in Washington and spent her first two years of life there.
Some of my fondest memories from that time are of Rebecca and I taking a bottle of wine down to the tidal basin (before the road on the city side was closed by the memorial FDR never wanted), where we could “crank Frank” (Sinatra) on the car stereo behind us, and sit on the grass under the cherry trees and watch the lights come on in the city over the water.
Not a spring has passed since leaving in 1994 when I don’t think wistfully of the cherry blossoms in bloom in Washington.
I nearly bought this next one online (and it wasn’t cheap) but it was already sold. Holiday Innpressionism is not really my style, but the scene was almost irresistible.
I think when the crepe myrtles bloom, I will take Rebecca into the park with a bottle of wine and we will crank Frank until the stars and mosquitoes come out.
We now return you to the unending Twilight Zone marathon that is New Orleans.
The Great Wave March 4, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, 8-29, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, Hurricane Katrina, Japan, New Orleans, NOLA, postdiluvian, Remember, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: 504, art, Hokusai, Japan, New Orleans, NOLA
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I found this postcard of a picture by Hokusai while in Washington, prompting the following caption-cum-fable for New Orleans..
The foamy fringe is a nest of threatening fingers reaching out to swamp the boats. The mountain is distant, cold capped, oblivious as the gods. The men’s backs are turned to the wave, and bent to the task of rowing. They did not choose the sea; the sea chose them. It is the world they were granted by their ancestors, a way as deeply ingrained in their souls as the salt in their sea-glare furrowed brows. The sea is a mirror of the sky, sometimes placid and other times fierce with wind, and where else shall men live except between the sky and the sea, those promising and pitiless fields of blue? They have heard the tale of tsunami, whole villages swallowed by the sea, places where people no longer beach their boats, coasts given over to ghosts. Still, they rise up with the sun and go down to their own nets. When confronted with the Great Wave, there is nothing to do but row.
This is a repost from long ago, back when visitors number in the high single figures, inspired by taking down the postcard off the wall where it had become buried by other things since summer of 2006. The mood seems apt to me at the moment and it is now my computer desktop and home and work. Tje idea it inspired in 2006 worth repeating for a larger audience now that this is my primary blog.
We Have Come For Your Children March 1, 2008Posted by Mark Folse in 504, art, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, music, New Orleans, NOLA, oddities, Odds&Sods.
Tags: Frank Zappa, Mothers of Invention, Uncle Meat
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We will set them free.
I need New Orleans more than New Orleans needs me September 2, 2007Posted by Mark Folse in art, New Orelans, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
Tags: John Scott, Ninth Ward, NOMA, sculptor, sculpture
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Noted sculptor, Xavier professor and of course Orleanian John Scott, interviewed on June 29 from Houston as he struggled with the illness that took his life this week:
“That’s the only home I know. I want my bones to be buried there. I belong there. I need New Orleans more than New Orleans needs me.”
While My Guitar Gently Weeps November 29, 2006Posted by Mark Folse in art, Dancing Bear, Odds&Sods, quotes, Toulouse Street.
Tags: "George Harrison", Beatles, music
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For certain is death for the born
And certain is birth for the dead;
Therefore over the inevitable
Thou shouldst not grieve.
Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2
Thou shouldst not grieve. I suggest we dance.
Maple Leaf Rag October 4, 2006Posted by Mark Folse in art, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, Rebirth.
Tags: Maple Leaf Bookstore
|Yesterday I visited the Maple Leaf Bookstore for the first time in 20 years. Nothing has changed, I thought as I grabbed the center pull of the screen door and entered. There is something about a cramped bookstore that entices in a way the marketing and design teams of the big box stores simply haven’t comprehended. Perhaps it is just that I am not the twenty to forty something woman book buyer they all believe they are catering to.
Borders and Barnes and Nobles will do in a pinch. A bookstore is, at the end of the day, still to me what a candy store is to a child, a place of wonder and reward. Still, there is something about the neatness and organization of the boxes that is repulsively antiseptic, that fails to hook me and make the sale. I routinely walk into B&N or Borders and leave without a book. When I visit an independent book store, that is clearly run for the love of books, even the endlessly cavernous Powell’s in Portland, Ore. (the highlight of my trip there last year, ahead of even the Japanese Garden), and wander the pratical and untidy stacks, I am entranced. I could never leave such a store empty handed. Hell, I think I even still have the receipt from Powell’s, and a half-dozen their bookmarks.
The staff of the Maple Leaf solicitiously offered to order me the book my daughter needed, but I couldn’t wait. Instead, I just wandered the cramped space, finding the poetry shelf right where I left it two decades ago. I picked up a little chapbook, Katrina-ku, storm poems, from the New Orleans Haiku society. Must are senryu, the form without the rigid references to nature. The real high point are the pen-and-ink drawings that accompany each poem. And the renku “Only The Living/a renku”, written collaboratively by members of the society, is a gem.
I still haven’t gotten my cannoli yet at Brocato’s, but I have no one to blame but myself. Returning to the Maple Leaf was just as sweet.
The great wave near the coast of Kanagawa August 12, 2006Posted by Mark Folse in art, Japan, New Orleans.
Tags: 504, art, Hokusai, Japan, Journal, New Orleans, NOLA
I found this postcard of a picture by Hokusai while in Washington. I put me in mind of my recent Wet Bank Guide post View from Under the Volcano. The foamy fringe is a nest of threatening fingers reaching out to swamp the boats. The moutain is distant, cold capped, oblivious as the gods. The men’s backs are turned to the wave, and bent to the task of rowing. They did not choose the sea; the sea chose them. It is the world they were granted by their ancestors, a way as deeply ingrained in their souls as the salt in their sea-glare furrowed brows. The sea is a mirror of the sky, sometimes placid and other times fierce with wind, and where else shall men live except beneath that broad and pitiless blue? They have heard the tale of tsunami, whole villages swallowed by the sea, places where people no longer beach their boats, coasts given over to ghosts. Still, they rise up with the sun and go down to their own nets. When confronted with the Great Wave, there is nothing to do but row.