I'd like to tell you a little more about my trip to Nikko last weekend, where I didn't see any monkeys -- even though I went just to see the wild monkeys. Around the time when I wasn't seeing any monkeys, I came across some interesting sculptures of elephants by the famous Edo period artist Kano Tanyu (1602-74), who created the images without having seen an actual elephant ever in his life. Japan was a pretty secluded place back then, to say the least, and so it is said that the artist only read about elephants in literature. These animals were created entirely from his imagination, and it's fitting that they're called the "imaginary elephants".
So, if Mr. Edo Artist died without ever seeing a real elephant,
and his take on what elephants looked like became the standard mental image for thousands of equally isolated visitors to the the shrine throughout its first few hundred years,
and if everyone believed they were looking at elephants,
then did these "imaginary elephants" become the slightest bit "real" in some respects?
Thinking about such things for too long will inevitably result in many academically charged questions regarding the mimetic nature of art, none of which I know the answers to. So instead, here are some more pictures of funny looking elephants!
And to wrap this post up, I'll close with what is a very personal and emotional piece of my own artwork. I like to call it: PORTRAIT OF A NIKKO MONKEY BY AN ARTIST WHO HAS NEVER FRIGGIN' SEEN ONE: