daily preciousness

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

facing east

Spent a relaxing afternoon staring eye-to-eye with a few dozen dead people. I was feeling freer-sackler, so I dropped by my fave museum on the mall to see their new exhibit: facing east. This was a collection of multi-media portraits organized by different interpretations of selfhood.

Just last week, I had dinner with Kathleen, a charming Georgetown student, who took a course called the anthropology of the self: exploration of identity and culture. What a perfect time to visit the collection -- Kathleen had just discussed with me various concepts of selfhood and identity. So I had some theory down when I visited the exhibit. They had three parts to the exhibit: likeness & identity, portraits & memory and projecting identity. My favorite was the idea of how people perceive the resemblance of a portrait to its subject. This idea differs across cultures and time. Some portraits can actually be authoritative in their representation of a subject, despite the fact that the artist may have lived centuries after the subject was dead! Portraits can be based on verbal descriptions. Religious art especially relies on the written word. Pretty neat stuff.

The pic above is a portrait of Jitsukawa Enjaku II, a 17th century kabuki actor. Around his mug are decorated donation envelopes, which fans would give to their fave actors as gifts. This painting was the "Tiger Beat" of its time -- idolizing a handsome star with bold, colorful graphics. Coolness.


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