Saturday, July 18, 2009

Japanese Prints in a loo in The Lou

It’s not every day that art makes me gasp, and before the 4th of July, it had never happened to me at a party – and certainly not in a bathroom.

A friend’s boyfriend, an artist himself, has two Toshi Yoshida prints hanging opposite his toilet. One is of a wisteria vine, and the other is a pink Mount Fuji. I was shocked not only by the unlikely placement, but by the sheer beauty of the colors, lines and composition. Unable to believe what I was seeing, I examined them for a good five minutes, oblivious to everything else.
Back in the kitchen, as I was helping myself to more chips and dips, I made a bad joke about how awful they were and suggested he give them to me. He declined my offer. The following week, still intrigued by them, I asked him a few questions about their history and what they mean to him – and why they’re in the bathroom.

The location has to do with his desire to keep them together as well as practicality – he has a lot of artwork, and they struck him as perfect for the bathroom. They came from an estate sale in upstate New York, where his family vacationed every summer. His father owned an antique shop in Daytona Beach, Florida, and would drive up with the family, but drive back in a U-Haul filled with that year’s plunder.

When his father passed away, he didn’t want much from the shop, but since he had always been attracted to those prints, he asked for and got them. Part of what he liked was their quietness, their amazing simplicity of color and design, the understated mastery that had so impressed Monet and his contemporaries. But he had also liked the way they transported him emotionally, allowing him to travel while standing still. He’s a traveling kind of guy, always up for new people and new experiences, and always enjoying coming home to everything in its right place.

He mentioned that to his dad, they were just merchandise, and that the shop was never terribly successful – people don’t go to Daytona Beach to buy antiques. Given a different location, the prints might have sold, and he wouldn’t have inherited them. And I wouldn’t have had that astonishing moment in a bathroom on the 4th of July.

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