Your eyes and ears on the world of art and culture. We remind you that 19 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.

In the midst of a species at war with itself, art continues to shine a bright light on the truth. Here are some gems that I have found for you this month.

If you missed this exhibit at The Legion of Honor in San Francisco here is an opportunity for you to see it online. Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei presents some fascinating and innovative clothing in a show called "Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy", open until September 22 of this year. The exhibit is being billed as the first major museum exhibition of her work. History and imagination combine to produce elaborate costumes in a romantic setting.

We have heard of a vocalist using the voice as an instrument, but perhaps none so experimental as Meredith Monk. Imagine hearing gasps, yodels, growling and chirrups, whispers, chuckles and howls during a vocal performance, all of it done with an eye to creating "sound poetry". Monk claims that her singing comes from the culture of folksongs. As she says, "before there was language there was music." At a young age, Monk was diagnosed with a visual problem called strabismus, resulting in her learning Dalcroze Eurhythmics. This system, which combines music with movement, continues to influence her creative output today. Listen to the youtube link and be prepared to hear sounds that are difficult to identify and truly unique.

Many of us have been fascinated by Native-American jewelry and indeed have traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to indulge in it visually and financially. On the weekend after the third Thursday in August, thousands of visitors pour into that tiny town to visit the Santa Fe Indian Market. The event has grown to include performances, lectures, exhibitions and screenings surrounding the roughly 1200 artists from the U. S. and Canada. Central to all of this work is the element of story-tellling, combining the history and traditions of the work. One award-winning artist, featured here, is Denise Wallace, who, like most of the artists, uses precious gems, scrimshaw, and stone carvings. Wallace touches many hearts when she admits to being influenced by the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks."

Once again Christie's brings a glorious past into view, here with a 500-year-old miniature painting attributed to Aqa Mirak. Mirak was described by a contemporary as "the genius of the age, the prodigy of our era". In the mid 1500's, Shah Tahmasp of Iran issued the Edict of Sincere Repentence, dismissing almost all of the musicians, poets and artists who had contributed to a blooming of the culture. Apparently the feeling was that art and religion could not co-exist. Mirak managed to survive in the Royal entourage. The history of the folio containing this painting is well-documented here, but the exquisite imagery needs no explanation to inspire.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is presenting a major exhibition of Alberto Giacometti and his fascination with the human body. Giacometti's figures are here described as "gaunt shell-shocked human figures that wander distractedly across city squares, alienated from themselves and each other amid the psychic wreckage of World War II and the prospect of nuclear annihilation in the Cold War." In the midst of the war in Ukraine these haunted bodies strike a particularly deep resonance.

Consider the concept of kaiseki, an elegant formal dinner that is thought to be the high point of Japanese cuisine. The techniques involved require many years of training and practice. Fortunately a restaurant now exists in Los Angeles called n/naka, run by a female chef named Niki Nakayama. Rarely found in the U. S., there is in fact another in Sonoma, California, called Single Thread. The Los Angeles venue is open 4 nights a week and sits 25 diners. Tables are already booked 3 months in advance: note that all forms of bribery have failed to invade the reservation list. Nakayama herself comments: "the ingredients are more important than you, the cooking is more important than you. Everything about the food is more important than you, and you have to respect that." The reporter who dined there recently said, "The course was a sensory strobe light, moving rapidly from rich to delicate, subtle to sharp."

Venice's Murano Glass has been renown for 700 years for its masterful glassblowers. It has survived two upheavals: first, the opening of an American Studio glass movement in the 1970's, led by Harvey Littleton, Dale Chihuly, and Marvin Lipovsky; and now by an emergence of women glassblowers aiming to literally smash the glass ceiling of top glass artists. As one commentator noted, "for the most part, the whole industry has always been a very masculine space". Now a new space opened in January of 2021 called El Cocal, dedicated to teaching women artists to work with glass. Their incursion may be a healthy one, because sons are no longer following their fathers into glassmaking and the glassmasters themselves are often well into their 70's.

The Guardian newspaper alerts us to a fresh look at James McNeill Whistler and his red-headed Irish love, Joanna Hiffernan. Whistler apparently did 3 paintings of Hiffernan in a long white dress. His relationship with her was so scandalous at the time that his Mother urged him to get married and "make an honest woman" of her. Instead, he denied to marry and left Hiffernan everything in his will. Gustave Courbet also painted Hiffernan, shown here as "Jo, the Beautiful Irish Girl".

Art Beyond the Canvas might be the title of works by Ryoichi Kurokawa. Born in Japan and now based in Berlin, Kurokawa takes 3D data of ruins, architecture and nature to create VR (Virtual Reality) installations that challenge the idea of where humans end and environments begin. Called Subassemblies, these multlimedia immersive installations are first distorted and then recreated into multi-layered environments, sometimes with quadrophonic additions. The result is an eerie presentation of spaces that could have existed but you know really did not. And yet, of course, they now do.

In a wry presentation called "The 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World", Hyperallergic casts its eye on those who did not survive, as they describe it, "the outsized influence of the super wealthy, not to mention the commercial galleries and vanity museums that serve them." I suspect we could all add others to this list, but start with theirs for curiosity.

Lydia Chan calls herself a lover of monsters, cartoons, and designer toys. She translates these obsessions into AR (Artificial Reality) constructions, leading us somewhere beyond the physical, through the digital, and on to a fantasy world. As shown in "Your Ship Has Landed", that other world is playful, engaging and filled with color and a sense of delight. Originally trained as an interior designer, she hopes to encourage an interest in science fiction as fun and flamboyant.

A new exhibit called "Host" by Carl Kostyal offers black and white paintings that examine the parasitic space between human and idea. Kostyal holds a Masters in analytic philosophy, and was originally absorbed by the false reading of a potentially fatal diagnosis. This experience led him to think about systems of coding and measuring and the affect they have on human diagnoses. In his own case, his life hinged on a misinterpreted condition. The dire implications of scientific data read wrong impelled him to create these eerie and ominous images, powerfully realized.

A sandbagged monument offers a stunning visual of the attempt in Ukraine to protect its museums from war and save its cultural heritage. It appears that every museum has a special list prepared for evacuation should bombing threaten their artworks, with the movement of some pieces being described as "loans" so as not to frighten the public. The effort is reminiscent of Europe's similar moves to save its cultural artifacts from the bombings in World War II.

c. Corinne Whitaker 2022