Another Sculpture

Guardian Deity of Children (Hourinji, Kyoto)

After this weekend’s naif sculptures in Saint Malo, I found myself drawn to this postcard today.  I love the beauty in this sculpture nestled among the hydrangea but I confess I know nothing about it.  Is it part of a shrine?  A garden?  Is it even meant to be Art?  What does it represent?  What does it represent to me?  Sometimes I like to go to an exhibit and just look at the art–no audio guide, no commentary, no background reading, just me and the art.  I go back and forth on whether I have a more profound experience when I’ve read up on the artist (or choose to listen to the official exhibit commentary) or when I just let myself be surprised.  I think the answer depends on my mood–well-structured commentary can bring a painting or sculpture alive in ways that you might miss on your own.  Symbolism has grown and changed over the centuries and what might have been obvious to a 16th century viewer, for example, might be less clear to today’s amateur art lover.  For centuries European art and Christianity went hand-in-hand.  A basic knowledge of the Bible and Catholic saints can give many a painting a little more weight and background story.  But then again, does it really matter that you know that the man dying in agony covered in arrows is Saint Sebastian to make the painting more poignant? I’m not sure.  (Can you tell that A. and I made a game out of “name that Saint” on our last visit to the Louvre?)   I deal with this question even more so when looking at non-Western art where my background knowledge is either lacking or simply non-existent.  I don’t have an answer and I was never meant to be a philosopher!

(As for this card, as soon as I read the caption and looked at the message, it did mean more to me!  I was pregnant with Elise when I received it and the message sent wishes for a healthy baby.)

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