Friday, June 12, 2009

extending a subject over more than one card



Here is a series of three etegami I drew on the subject of tsukushi, the fertile stems of the Equisetum arvense, commonly known as the Field Horsetail or Common Horsetail. Tsukushi are one of the first plants to come up in the spring, but they soon make way for the taller, bushier, greener, sterile stems known in Japan as sugina. Both the fertile and sterile stems have jointed segments that remind me a little of bamboo. They grow profusely at the edges of our garden wall, especially on the public side of the wall where neighbors consider them an eyesore and gently hint that I should be pulling them out. But I find tsukushi to be a charming plant. I like their shape. I like how they grow in clusters of mixed heights and mixed tones of brown, as though they were a close and happy family that enjoyed each other's company. They are edible too, though not exactly full of flavor. I've heard people say tsukushi are only palatable when they first come up, when they are at their most succulent stage. But I kind of like them when they've gotten a bit dry, when their tufted "heads" get a wee bit crunchy. At least once each spring, I harvest a handful of tsukushi and toss them into a lightly oiled frying pan with boiled spaghetti noodles for a nutty accent, or simmer them in a soy-based sauce and fold them into an omelet. Oh dear, here I am again, going on and on about eating the subjects of my drawings. Getting back to the drawing itself: I happened to place three of the tsukushi etegami side by side, and was pleasantly surprised by the way the "field" of tsukushi spread out in either direction. It is not uncommon for etegami artists to place two (or more) cards side by side, extending a single subject over both cards. Usually something long, like a whole daikon radish or corn-on-the-cob. Each card will bear only a segment of the whole drawing. The cards can be mailed off to different recipients, or they can be mailed to the same recipient staggered over a period of time. I didn't have that in mind when I drew my tsukushi, but I accidentally came close to producing just that sort of etegami. Etegami is meant to be mailed-- not hoarded. But if I were to frame these three cards in a hinged three-part frame, it would qualify as a triptych, wouldn't it? Then again, that could lead to visions of grandeur. I like to say that etegami art is not Art with a capital A. It's of the people, to be enjoyed as part of everyday life. The accompanying words? Oh yes, the letters says "mure," which means flock (or band, or troop, or cluster). I drew it for an elderly woman in my church. A dear sweet lady who is part of the same flock as I am.

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