Lisa Solomon dot com


In June of 2007 I visited Sanjusangen-do in Kyoto. The name tells you it’s a 33-length hall, but you might as well call it the 1000 Buddha temple. Inside there are literally 1000 Buddhas – lined up – they all have these round crowns/halos with spikes [I thought they were reminiscent of the shape of a doily]. When faced with an object repeated in multitude alternative views present themselves. The Buddha is now no longer just a Buddha – they ­– together­ – are an army, a swarm, a meditation… Things in mass can become something other – both positive, as in a crowd all enjoying the same music at a concert ­– and negative as in cells mutating and metastasizing into cancer.

The Japanese are masters of the number 1000 [Sen]. It is a number that cozies a number of traditions. The dedication it takes to get to 1000 of anything is no joke – symbolically if you can reach that goal you are rewarded with luck or a wish. In this exhibition I explore this idea of Sen. Repetition – in mark making and in subject matter as well as investigation often in a scientific manner are utilized in my practice regularly. For this exhibition my goal is to discuss 1000/Sen and the notion of luck by combining facts and data as well as historical and cultural practices with my own lexicon of visual vocabulary. All the work in the show contains literally 1000 of the depicted/made objects.

Besides 1000 Buddhas, I researched other Sen traditions.

Senninbari – these are1000 stitch belts that women would make for their husbands going off to war in WWII. Ideally 1000 women would gather and each one would put a French knot in a belt. They would work on many belts – collectively infusing each one with the luck the hoped would keep their loved ones safe.

I have used French knots in my work for quite some time, but they have now taken on a new meaning. All the drawings in the exhibition utilize them. The pink 1000 buddha hand drawing, and the red crane drawing actually have 1000 French knots.

I am also presenting a wall of 1000 doilies – as an installation – each one pinned to the wall. Another longtime interest of mine is color and color theory – so for this project I decided to choose 100 colors of thread and create 10 doilies in each color. These can be arranged in a multitude of ways, by value, by hue, even randomized. Each set of 10 will end with a doily that connects to its threadball – these long threads will dangle to the floor – activating that space and will act as a reminder of how the doily is actually made. For this installation I have harkened back to the Sennibari tradition – relying on the kindness of both friends and strangers over 45 women [and my mom] from around the world volunteered to help me make this project happen. Although it was not possible for us to gather in a gymnasium to make doilies, the power of the internet and global delivery helped connect me to these women. I am intrigued in how these doilies now represent all these individual lives as well… I know my doilies were taken to dance class, done in the backyard, done while watching movies – where were these other doilies taken? Each set of 10 will be slightly different as every person makes them with a different tension and a different style.

The first time these were displayed they were in a rectangle – 40 across by 25 high - at Fouladi Projects.
The second time I showed them in singular vertical rows. One row per color across a 30 foot wall - at the Ulrich Museum [where the piece was eventually aquired for their permanent collection].
I also configured them in a concentric circle - at Walter Maciel Gallery. The color order based on a painting chart I have in my studio.

There are 2 drawings of Buddha hands in mudras. Loosely based on Senju Kannon the 1000 armed Buddha.
In a small golden drawing I arranged the hands in a circle – to mimic a doily and as a loose extension of the circle of the Japanese flag. That drawing incorporates hand in the Abhaya Mudra and Jnana Mudra – the gesture of reassurance/blessing/protection and teach respectively.

In a bright pink, silver and orange drawing rows of Buddha hands are again in the Abhaya and Jnana Mudras, but also the Karana Mudra – that which expels evil/demons.

A couple of the drawings use my interpretation of the "crown" that sits on the buddha's head at Sanjusendo. There is also one 1000 Buddha crown drawing that is meant to mimic the experience of walking by the Buddhas. Made in 3 parts the piece will be hung in the hallway space of the gallery where viewers can walk by the 1000 crowns, some with French knots and dangling threads.

Senbazuru – 1000 cranes. Much of the world is familiar with the story of Sadako Saski and her quest to make 1000 cranes after the bombing of Hiroshima. The tradition of making 1000 cranes for birthdays, anniversaries and other occasions stems even further back into history.

There are drawings of the cranes in concentric circles [like a doily], strung together in vertical rows, and also a representation of the 1000 cranes hung as garlands. They are often strung together and displayed this way.

There are also 2 drawings exploring 1000 Samurai. Every Spring [May 18th] there is a 1000 Samurai precession that occurs in Japan:
The march of men dressed in Samurai regalia must be quite a site.
For both my drawings I use a traditional helmet – Kabuto – to represent the Samurai. In one drawing I am imagining what a sea of them marching might look at – utilizing colors found regularly in traditional costuming. In the smaller drawing I make tiny delicate Samurai helmets resemble a doily again.

The Miharu- Takizakura in Miharu, Fukushima is a 1000+ year old cherry tree which Japanese often make a pilgrimage to in  Springtime when it blooms. It was most recently a symbol of hope for Fukushima victims that survived when it survived and bloomed despite the disaster.  1000 cherry trees were gifted to Washington DC on March 27, 1912 as a symbol of growing friendship between the two countries.

I was the Ulrich Museum's Underground Artist in Residence in the Summer of 2014. While there I organized a crowd sourced companion piece to the 1000 doily installation. It was composed of 1000 drawn doilies. Resdients from around Wichita, as well as participants from around the world generated and sent in drawings - representations of the doily used in the doily installation [which was installed directly across from this piece in the hall]. Once in residence I realized I had 100 colors of drawn doilies and decided to organize them by color. The numbers in each colorway soley determined by what colors I had. Each drawing hole punched and strung with matching thread. I stacked the drawings in a manner similar to Ema - wooden wish plaques that live outside of Shinto Shrines in Japan.

At first I was incredibly wary of incorporating such iconic symbols [the Buddha, the paper crane, Kabutos, etc]. I realized, though, that by repeating the image 1000 times I would be able to alter it. I approached the imagery the same way I have approached other things in my work. Some of the drawings end up looking like mandalas or doilies… the addition of French knots and long dangling thread helps to tie the work together, it also hints and confronts the viewer with process and labor.