20" x 16" © virginia huber, 2004.

Sumi artist Machiko Kitayama had promised me a visit to her atelier and also a methods demonstration. She would show me how she reinforces her sumi paintings with two additional layers of handmade paper. Machiko did this without a pucker or a tear, and seemingly without effort. Machiko's art process is a lot like a confident, graceful dance -- a memorable sight. I took notes and then gave it a try. Had both Machiko and I not been out of film, I would have a slew of photos to show of the demo she did for me.


24" x 18" © virginia huber, 2004.

My host and I had been expending considerable energy trying to communicate with each other for almost a week now. It was a relief to forget Japanese and English for a period of time. We were now in an art studio and could communicate in the universal language of art. Machiko Kitayama has a highly respected professional history. In her atelier were exquisitely crafted scrolls and panels retrieved from storage specially for my visit. At one point Machiko made coffee for us and we sat down on the carpet to look at her more recent art. She leaned a large multiple panel piece against her work table, each panel lying on its side as portrayed in this image. My eyes went from area to area and my thoughts wandered as they do in meditation. Later in the week I overheard Machiko telling a friend that the peak moment for her in the week was "when Virginia meditated by my art." That was my peak moment also.



16" X 20" © virginia huber, 2004.

My parents believed it was important to insist that children have some "boring time" each day. That's what they called it when we children complained. Their idea was that within this "boring time" would come ideas and new areas of rich life. When I grew into adulthood and became acquainted with eastern philosophy, I learned my parents had something. Eastern philosophers call this "empty" time as balanced with "full" time. How many of us run a treadmill while listening to music or reading a book so as not to be "bored"? My parents would have advised against this as would eastern philosophers.


18" X 24" © virginia huber, 2004.

I remember one morning at Machiko's home there was some free time. I browsed a bookshelf and found a book on the Zenga ("ga" means "art") art tradition - i.e., "zen art." I don't know how long I sat and looked at the book, but excitement built up. I gathered the book close to me and ran looking here and there for Machiko, calling her name. I did a dance as I said in English, 'Machiko, I'm a zenga artist!' Since I have returned to Wisconsin, I have read more about zenga to acquaint myself with Buddist philosophers who lived long ago.

The day I found a book on zenga art in the Kitayama family library was like coming home for me. I am a zenga artist practicing meditation and making art on a middle western prairie. I was this long before I left for Saitama in 2002, but I didn't know it.


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