Japanese architect, Tadao Ando designed the Chikatsu Asuka Museum to house thousands of artifacts from the 3rd to the 7th century, discovered in more than 200 burial mounds called Kofun. The museum and these pyramidal mounds are in the Ishi Kawa Tani (Stone River Valley) area south of Osaka, sometimes referred to as the “Japanese Valley of the Kings”.
I sketched several objects I saw in this museum in 2009 while I was teaching at Osaka University of Art. From my early sketches, I made a drawing, which later developed into a clay model. After I had blown a large glass piece, made from this clay model, as a demonstration at the California College of Arts in Oakland, I discovered what the object was that I had sketched in the museum!
The object is called Kuwagataishi. It is believed to be a ceremonial bracelet shaped like the metal head of a hoe or Kuwa. This was interesting to me because I have thought and written about farm tools exerting an influence on my sculpture; If the farmer represents figurative art, and the farm is the landscape metaphor, then in some way, it is the hoe or plough that connects (grounds) the farmer to his land. The spiritual connection that many agrarian civilizations have acknowledged between man and earth is symbolized in these tools.
The shapes and the weight of farm implements inform my forms, the wear and patina inform my surface textures and colors, and the history and cross cultural similarities help me understand how a mundane, yet powerful object can freeze time. In the case of Kuwa, the ancient form of the hoe evolved to a stone “burial bracelet” about 1700 years ago. I saw one in Japan and, for me; it evolved again, this time into what? It does seem figurative, could be the farmer.