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Posted: June 9, 2009

REVIEW of Sacred Mountain: Images of Mt. Diablo and Mt. Fuji (a group show)
Hearst Art Gallery, Saint Mary's College of California.
May 2, 2009 - July 3, 2009
1928 Saint Mary's Road, Moraga, CA 94575

Sacred Mountain at St Mary's
Review by Patricia Wakida 
Artslant Worldwide (posted: 6/08/09) the #1 Contemporary Art Network

A quest for divine beauty and the role of the artist in preserving and exalting images of sacred nature provides the poetic foundation of Sacred Mountain: Images of Mount Diablo and Mount Fuji. Sacred Mountain is curated by St. Mary’s Hearst Gallery collections manager, Julie Armistead, who arduously collected and researched the artists, as the extended captions indicate. The show itself is impressive alone in its breadth (the earliest Mount Fuji work is from circa 1810, and the earliest Mount Diablo work from 1854; the most contemporary artpiece in the show was completed in 2009).  With eighty-three works on the checklist ranging from photography to woodcut prints, embroidery to sumi-e brush painting, damascened iron to quilted and hand-dyed textile, it is an amazing achievement and an experience worth seeking out.


Masami Teraoka, New Views of Mount Fuji/La Brea Tar Pits, 1979, watercolor on paper, 11 x 55 ", private collection, courtesy of Catherine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, California

Tourism had a deft hand in fueling a bevy of illustrations, decorative motifs and photographs of Mount Fuji explicitly for souvenirs, particularly after the Meiji era, (1867-1911) as Japan’s modernization began. On the advent of the country opening, Mount Fuji played a significant role in embodying the beauty of the country itself, with its perfectly symmetrical, conical shape and dominating aura. The sheer splendor of a gilt-embroidered panorama (“Landmark Embroidery” by the anonymous craftspeople at Kyoto Workshop) depicting Japan’s most famous tourist sites bore a touch of kitsch, but really was quite extraordinary. The role of tourism and sacred objects is also referenced tongue in cheek by Masami Teraoka, with his series “New Views of Mount Fuji”, which is well represented in the show. Of particular note is “New Views of Mount Fuji/La Brea Tar Pits and Rental Boat”, which focuses on the La Brea Tarpits “as LA’s answer to Mt. Fuji as a signature tourist attraction,” according to Teraoka. He muses that perhaps one day, Japan would opt to import the tarpits to Japan for the spectacle and amusement of such a geological wonder, and jibes at this proposal by floating Kabuki-faced tourists in wooden boats on the blackened tar waters, with Pliocene woolly mammoths perched on the shores, and the bump of Mount Fuji seen off in the distance.

The views of Mount Diablo themselves are myriad and part of the delight. Artists in the exhibition capture the mountain from the perspective of Skyline Boulevard in Oakland, from West Point, Mount Tamalpais; there is even a view of Mount Diablo as painted by Warren Dreker from the nearby Concord Naval Weapons Station. A few stand outs include Louis LaBrie’s meticulously detailed tapestry of oaks in “Mount Diablo”, Jack Cassinetto’s thick strokes of oil and handcrafted frame in the Arts and Crafts style; and the oldest work represented, Thomas Almond Ayres’ delicate charcoal and pastel drawing on a glittering marble dusted board ,“Benicia and Mount Diablo, From the Straits of Carquinez”, a tranquil view of a California that no longer exists. Only one artist in the show represents both mountains—the Japanese painter Chiura Obata, whose sumi ink sketchbooks from the 1950s-1960s show his reverence for great nature in both his native country and in his adopted home of California.

The supreme irony is that all this beauty may not save California from closing its most precious resources off from the public: as of this writing, Mount Diablo State Park is on the list of 200 state parks to close in California Governor Schwarzenegger's budget-cutting proposal. Beginning June 1, the governor will cut the parks core funding in half and then eliminate all core funding in the next 12 months, according to the California State Parks Foundation. It is only telling then, how apropos painter Frank Rowe’s concern about the growth of the nation’s car culture, along with its speed and pollution became the inspiration of his view of Mt. Diablo in “The Concord Train”.  The train’s passengers, unheeding of the splendid view unfurling before them, ignore Mount Diablo as it “silently reminds the unobservant masses that the universe bends towards justice…”

- Patricia Wakid


Posted: May 30, 2009
Studio Update



Masami Teraoka Studio Update: Triptychs in progress. Posted 5/27/09


Masami Teraoka: The Cloisters Series in progress. Posted 5/30/09



Masami Teraoka: The Cloisters / Venus and Pope's Workout. 2004-2009, Oil on panel in gold-leaf frame, 119” x 61-1/4" x 5-3/4,” Closed view. Private collection. Aaron Nagel: Idol Worship, 36" x 36" oil on canvas. 2007, (top right): The artist's collection.


Masami Teraoka: The Cloisters / Venus and Pope's Workout, 2004-2009, Oil on panel in gold-leaf frame, 119” x 61-1/4" x 5-3/4,” Closed view. Private collection.




Masami Teraoka: The Last Supper Series at Samuel Freeman