Writing About Art

Entry by: MONARCHB

5th June 2015
Writing about Art: Hokusai's "Great Wave"

She was at that stage in her life where she didn't want any more possessions: no more clothes, no more shoes, no more stuff, no more anything. Birthdays and holidays were getting to be exasperating for her family and friends because she never gave them any "wish lists."

"You know what I really want?" she would tell them. "More time, more time to be with those I love." Such a desire cannot be found at your local boutique or folded into a gift-wrapped box or put under a Christmas tree. They knew it and she knew it.

So imagine her utter surprise when a large package was delivered to her home that she never ordered: a beautiful framed copy of Katsushika Hokusai's famous woodblock print, "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa." The huge wave's momentum looked like clawing hands ready to pluck the anonymous men from their flat boats--as if they were already part of the water. And the ever-present Mount Fuji looked like a frozen wave in the distance--a silent witness that resonated with the blue, white, and gray landscape.

At first, she thought her husband or her sister or a close friend had bought it for her. No, not them. She phoned everyone she knew to discover who had sent it, but received only bemused and negative responses. Everyone was as puzzled as she was.

She even contacted the local art museum; their gift shop had sent the print. The shop clerk didn't have a record of the person who bought the piece. It was purchased with cash at the museum store and shipped from there (as opposed to being ordered on-line or from their catalog division). There was no trace of the person who sent it to her.

She was more intrigued as the days and weeks went by, as her questions were met with shrugs or silence. But, she couldn't bring herself to claim it as her own and hang the art piece on a wall--especially given her recent moratorium on any new possessions.

Finally, after several months of having "The Great Wave" languish in its box, her husband said, "Enough of this already. Either keep it or give it away."

She brought the print out again and stared at the motionless water for a long time. Here was a beautiful reproduction of one of the masters of the Edo period of Japanese art. An artist whose renditions of Mount Fuji she had loved ever since studying them in an art history class at university. That was a time in her life when she was much younger and craved so many things: good grades, good times, no regrets. She would have given anything to possess back then what she had in her hands now.

That night she decided to "sleep on it." And that night she had a marvelous dream about a clear river that ran through her cellar. Every now and then, a small boat would appear on the river filled with people she knew and loved: some still alive--a daugher, a son, her husband with his shy grin; and others long dead--the grandmother from her past who always baked dark bread filled with the smells of the earth. She spent the entire dream waving at them and they waved back, smiling and laughing as they passed her steady gaze.

The next morning, she took the Hokusai print and found a place for it in her study--above a desk filled with the clutter of her life. She'd never part with "The Great Wave" now. This one thing she didn't expect and had spent so much time trying to disown had become one of her dearest, most cherished possessions. Somehow, someone knew it would...even before she did.