September 27, 2005

News Flash - The Anchor
Akashi Lady Graces Multicultural Center
Written by Victoria Enders Unity Center Student Worker/Public Relations Coordinator

When I first entered The Unity Center conference room at Rhode Island College, I was instantly blown away. In complete astonishment, I became overwhelmed by the power of the Akashi Lady. Forced to sit and absorb the magnitude of her detail, I was motivated to learn more about this woman. Who was she? What was her story?

The Akashi Lady is an oil painting on masonite by artist extraordinaire Kumiko S. Mckee. At first glance, the painting shows an elegant Japanese woman dressed in a kimono and playing a violin-like instrument called a Biwa. Depicted below are small images of traditionally dressed women lying on floor mats. Above them, we can see the sun setting over the mountains and the trees. Far off into the distance, mounds of brownish-orange clouds overshadow the waters and the boats. The images in the painting remind me of the old Japanese villages in movies and books: peaceful and mystical places I would love to visit.

Kumiko S. Mckee emulates style and technique as a part of her artistry, capturing the true essence of Japanese culture. It is indeed definite that the strokes of an artist’s brush can tell a story through art. The painting of the Akashi Lady is a story in itself. The image is derived from a Japanese literature titled The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. In fact, The Tale of Genji is known as one of the world’s oldest novels. In this tale, the Akashi Lady is best described as a loving mother who values the security and safety of her child but also feels comfort in allowing that child to be raised by someone else.

The Akashi Lady is more than just a painting or a tale; it’s the type of art that everyone can relate to. Whether a young child or a loving mother, we can apply this piece to our lives. The whole concept of the painting projects a style of Japanese surrealism that digs deep into the mind of the human sub-consciousness.

This goes back to the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.” However, in this case, a painting is worth a thousand more. The Director of The Unity Center at Rhode Island College, Aaron Bruce, will testify to that. In fact, when asked why art inspires him, he stated, “Art transcends culture. The connection made through viewing paintings like the Akashi Lady gives the viewer a glimpse into a world they may know little about.”

These days The Akashi Lady is just one of the art exhibits that can be seen in The Unity Center. It wasn’t until recently that center began incorporating works of various artists on its walls. They promote multiculturalism and encourage diversity awareness at RIC. The works of different artists, sculptors, painters and illustrators intertwine with what diversity represents. The concept of diversity awareness stems from a long line of consciousness. It can exemplify anything from cultural perspectives to political views. In this case, our attention is directed toward art.

I know that I will definitely return to The Unity Center to visit the Akashi Lady. There is something about the image that allows me to look into myself and feel a sense of contentment. I feel secured. The kindness of her eyes brings me peace and serenity.

The Anchor NewsFlash /Art/September 2005/

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