Morimura’s Mother (Judith) Series
Morimura, born and living in Japan, is one of several contemporary artists who know that in Western art every painter paints himself. For more than twenty years now he has been recreating Western (and Oriental) masterpieces with his own face on every figure. This suggests, as we continuously repeat, that every figure in a work of art is an aspect of the artist's own self. Yet, despite knowing far more about the underlying meaning of Western art than any academic art historian, Morimura says nothing. He just goes on making his art while leaving it to others to figure out. (I plan to recount in a separate essay how conventional critics interpret Morimura's work but you can be certain that they have no idea that he exposes their own ignorance.)
In this example after Cranach's Judith and Holofernes Morimura is both Judith and her victim, thus signaling that both (in the original) represent Cranach. He seems aware - an observation confirmed through a review of his oeuvre - that Judith executed both Holofernes' head and the painting. The head is "her painting" and the sword is "her brush".
In portraying himself as Judith, he further indicates that the creative mind at its most perfect is androgynous. Morimura may not be a great master. He does not have to be. But he does understand Western art in much the same manner as the great masters of Western art have.
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In a second variation on the same painting Judith and her clothing take on the aspect of a cabbage while the skin of Holofernes' head becomes potato-like. In the first variation the beef steak had prominently represented the inside of Holofernes' head to remind the esoteric viewer, perhaps, that the artist's meaning lies on the inside. Now though it is set aside as part of a meat-and-vegetable still-life suggesting, along with the vegetable skins, that the self Morimura so boldly displays is not his personal self but a universal one, at one with Nature. Once we break free of the illusion of exterior reality, we are all - in our most profound being - one and the same. Few of us can see that without help but, then, that's what artists and prophets are for.
More Works by Morimura
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