Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Dali Museum

Koriyama is not the center of the Japan by any stretch. Japan’s economy, society, and culture orbit around Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto. Their rich histories date back hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. Large cosmopolitan populations congregate around the money and jobs of thriving automobile and consumer electronics firms. Koriyama would be like the Mobile, Alabama of Japan.

In what I’m guessing was typical at the time, the Meiji era brought an aqueduct to irrigate rice fields that continue to define the landscape today. Thus Koriyama was born! There are no castles, truly remarkable landmarks, or other historic sites in the area. While I like Koriyama and its people, I must admit Koriyama is a jumble of drab, concrete eyesores surrounded by rice fields and mountains. There’s a reason I don’t have many pictures of my city in this blog. Surrounding areas are more scenic, but also much more provincial and rural. The “inaka” consists of tiny hamlets of old people tending their rice fields (young people typically leave after high school for obvious reasons).

So you may be surprised to learn that along a tiny two lane highway through the mountains, (in an area roughly analogous to Pagosa Springs in CO, Camp Verde in AZ, or Needles in California) lies the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art. Locally people refer to it as, “The Dali Museum.” About 2/3 of the museum’s floor space is nothing but Dali. You know Salvador Dali right? The Spanish guy who painted all the melting clocks, elephants with insect legs, and naked people with drawers coming out of them? Surely you’ve seen his trademark melting clocks! Why somebody built a very decent Dali museum in a rural mountain backwater like Inawashiro is anyone’s guess, but that was the museum to which Emi and I went.

I learned a few interesting things about Dali. A prolific sculptor as well as painter, his sculptures are just as strange and intriguing as his paintings, although it is obvious that many times he just started sculpting what he had previously painted. The melting clocks and paintings were very cool. All of his melting clocks are stopped at the time Atomic bombs detonated. One famous painting I saw, The Three Sphinxes of Bikini features people’s heads and tree branches as symbols for mushroom clouds over Bikini Island. Havent seen this one since that Humanities class in College. He drew inspiration for a great deal of his paintings from the early Atomic Age.

They also had a large collection of boring paintings by some woman named Marie Laurencin (yawns and snores). Her dainty pastels of melancholy ladies cured my persistent insomnia and could be developed into alternative anesthetics for the oral surgeon’s office! Let’s hope for the museum’s sake that these do not make up their permanent collection. But the one Picasso I saw there definitely rocked.

OK, I won't lie! While I enjoyed Dali and wanted to take his paintings home, I didn't learn all that much. I spent most of my time joking around with Emi and making fun of Marie Laurencin. Still, Dali is something to be seen. Also, I can't claim to have seen every painting of Dali's featured on this blog. I saw a sculpture that looked just like the Anthropomorphic Dresser, and I saw the Three Sphinxes of Bikini, but the other paintings I can't claim to have seen (yet). Still, an impressive museum devoted to Dali. If you ever find yourself in the village of Inawashiro, go see their Dali Museum!

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