Dilettante here: I wish I were completely, perfectly, soul-satisfyingly proficient in an art form, but I cannot settle down to one pursuit and thus I’m a wicked dabbler. There are those, though, who do and they are extraordinary. Lately, I’ve found a wellspring of artists profiles on cable TV and I thought I’d share some of the artists who’ve tantalized me with their skill and accomplishments.
How did find these artists? Well, that discovery was an unexpected boon from my husband’s channel-surfing habit. I don’t know if you’ve come across NHK World, it’s a Japanese TV network, but do give it a try if you can. Albeit funky at times, the cultural programing is remarkable and even mind-blowing. The other finds are serendipitous as well, but from more conventional sources like PBS and YouTube.
Mika Toba & Katazome Textile Dyeing
Meet Mika Toba, a woman artist who uses an ancient Japanese dyeing technique called Katazome to create fabric panels. The program we caught was called Creating a Zen World. The segment follows Toba as she conceptualizes a major commission for a Zen temple called Ryōan-ji in Kyoto–parts of it date to the 12th century, but the temple itself was constructed sometime after 1450. Toba’s completed screens would keep company with the work of revered artists and craftsmen of bygone times. The segment shows how Toba is more than up for the task from her initial renderings of the zen-like landscapes that would be dyed onto the screens to her dogged commitment to following age-old techniques and materials to complete her commission. She has singlehandedly kept artisanal workshops in Kyoto from shuttering in order to help create her art.
What is remarkable about the Zen temple commission is that she created scenes on both sides of the wall-sized screens. But it’s Toba herself who intrigued me more. I cannot help but be swept up by the single-mindedness of her vision and commitment, which is really what a dabbler/artist lacks, or at least experiences only spasmodically. I let life intrude and she, well, she doesn’t. After that fun ride on Toba’s Katazome journey, I’m an NHK fan. You will be as well if you are the least intrigued by Japanese art forms and cultural eccentricities–witness the segment on all manner cosmetic brushes each with a very specific use!
Sharon Isbin, Troubadour
My husband and I caught this artist profile one evening on PBS, Sharon Isbin, Troubadour, although I suspect it forms part of a larger public television series. Sharon Isbin is a classical guitarist who is not only an international performer and Grammy winner, she also is the director of guitar for the Aspen Music Festival and The Julliard School. I was enchanted by her maverick take on guitar music. Rising through the ranks as a woman in a musical form dominated by iconoclastic guitarists like Andres Segovia is not her only grand achievement, she also experiments outrageously with musicians from all backgrounds and styles. The results reflect that diversity–some are great and some are odd, but why not? It was fun to see her interactions with rock musicians and avant-garde composers.
The Amped-up Realism of Marcello Barenghi
I realized as I was composing this post that there’s a larger story at work with my BSOz adventure here: I LOVE to see an artist at work. Many times I’d rather experience the behind-the-scenes story than see the result–it’s the struggle that yields to innovation that is compelling for me. And this artist of hyper realism delivers just that: videos of him making drawings that are as good as photographs. Take a look at Marcello Barenghi’s time-lapse snippets and be awed.
Always a Dancer, Even if the Body Complains
So far I’ve given you a textile art, music, and drawing, and so I’ll close with a bit of sublime dance. This is one of my favorite YouTube clips from the Royal Ballet in London, England. As a ballet practitioner who has run way past her dance expiration date (‘dem legs do creak and protest!), I adore watching ballet class as it should be done. I hope you do too, but know that the big stuff–turns, jumps, leaps–come toward the end of class.
BSOz for you!