This series of monotypes was inspired by the obos sculptures that I encountered in Martha Kingsbury’s book George Tsutakawa.1 I had long been familiar with Tsutakawa’s work because I grew up in Seattle where I encountered his fountains and sculptures placed around the city. These arresting, beautiful objects are imprinted on my early memories. I recall being especially fond of the “Fountain of Wisdom,” situated in front of the downtown Seattle Public Library, where I studied as a teenager. Fortunately, the city planners retained this fountain on library property when the new (fabulous) Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Main Library was built. I also clearly recall the huge Paul Horiuchi mosaic mural at the Seattle Center during the 1962 World’s Fair. These experiences were part of my very early art education--perhaps “visual education” is more accurate--which includes an appreciation of the Japanese sense of design and balance.
Tsutakawa’s obos sculptures were inspired by rock formations that he saw in Ladakh.* They are markers on a path to show that someone has passed safely; each walker carefully adds a stone to the pile.
In May 2006 I had the opportunity to use a wonderful electric Takach etching press owned by Joan Stuart Ross at Ballard Art Works in Seattle for five full days, and was able to pursue my then new-found interest in monotype. I had taken numerous workshops in the process, but had never had unlimited use of a press. As I set up the studio that first morning, I searched my brain for a theme; the vision that presented itself was a memory of those sculptures in the book about Tsutakawa. Specifically, the teak sculpture, “Obos No.1, 1956” was the initial inspiration and it led me into a process of putting together piled-up and floating ovals, adding varying slants of light; each monotype led to another version of itself. Hence, this series. You could say I have added my own stones to the collections begun by Mr. Tsutakawa.
Still excited about the forms of the obos sculptures, I completed another series of monotypes in early 2012, which I call “Obos Series II.” I continue to work with this theme.
*”Whenever one gets over pass without being afflicted by pass poison or without suffering any other injury or disaster, the gods have been good to him. And so he celebrates the event. He does it in several ways. He builds a pile of stones at the pass—called OBOS in Ladakh and ORIS in Lahul (sic)—and each time a traveler passes that way he adds a stone. And so the piles grow into huge collections. Everyone adds to them.”1 -
1. Martha Kingsbury. George Tsutakawa. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990.
Marc Ellen Hamel, June 2013