On a cold day I walked into the Art Institute of Chicago, past the people taking selfies with the lions at the entrance. I checked in my coat and walked down to the basement to look at the collection of photographs from Japan, and was distracted by an odd collection. There was a room full of paperweights! The display was in a little corner, and most people seem to have walked in by accident or out of curiosity. I don’t know whether there was anyone there who looked at the displays with an expert eye. I walked around and took a photo of the stunningly kitschy piece that you see in the featured photo. I guess if you want to make an arresting piece which sits on a table and is seen every day you could do worse than load it with little details which can keep the user’s attention for years. I think this one succeeds.
The Art Institute has a beautiful small collection of classical art from Asia and India. One of the pieces which I spent some time admiring was the wooden image of the Shinto god Hachiman in the guise of a monk which you see above. The calmness is a special characteristic of Japanese divine images. I admired the texture of the wood, and wondered how the sculpture would have looked when it still had paint on it. This is over a millennium old. How old must human emotions be, to be able to communicate over such vast periods of time.