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barton cole :: veni, vedi, vero scripsi
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I couldn't think of anything else to write about, so I'll write a bit about the source image I used for this page - the Crow Screen, a hallmark of the collections at Seattle's Asian Art Museum.
They're a pair of painted, six-panel screens, about fifteen feet long (each), and six feet high? Something like that.
As many times as I have stood in front of the screens when visiting the museum, I have never counted how many crows are painted on the screens, but I would guess there are about one-hundred-fifty in all?
The screens are usually on display at the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), being, as I mentioned, featured items there.
Once, though, I confessed to a woman I knew, when she asked me what I wanted for my birthday, that I would like to see the Crow Screens when they are not available to the public - a private viewing, I suppose.
Rather bold of me, I was told, but my friend, who worked for years at the Seattle Art Museum, might yet have connections that would enable me to have my wish fulfilled.
It took some doing - such as fielding questions about my credentials, and worthiness for such a private viewing, but my friend apparently held me and my desire in high enough regard to influence the museum staff, her old colleagues, to set the screens up in the basement.
Years ago, my dad was heavily involved with the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society; the officers would meet weekly at The Museum of History and Industry (which has the iconic stuff polar bear seen widely), and I had the run of the museum.
Among other things, in the summer, I would use the working periscope, which was installed on the roof, but penetrated to the main floor, from which you could see the view outdoors, to stare at girls taking the sun over at the ship canal embankment in their bikinis.
My favorite thing, though, was to scout around in the basement.
That's where the action is, at a museum. Think of it - you won't see more than about ten percent of a museum's holdings on display at a time, but to see the rest of the iceberg, stored some floors below the galleries, is astonishing.
And to see the Crow Screens set up in the basement, under poor artificial light, was magnificent. I was close enough to caress them with my eyelashes, although I made a point of not touching them.
And to see the brushstrokes; the painting is clearly a devotional work, painted by a passionate observer of crows and their demeanor.
For the theme image, Mr. Corax (the graphic designer who does much of our work) copied a section of the screens from a scanned image, then replaced the painted background with a stylized facsimile. You'll recognize the style of the original in the version Andy Corax set up for this site, but his is just enough different, I think.