REQUIEM FOR AN EXECUTED BIRD

     During the war, the artist was taken away from Tokyo to live in the country with her uncle. One day, when she was four years old, she walked into one of the rooms in the house and found a hen, slaughtered, with its head chopped off, hanging upside down with its blood dripping into a bowl that had been carefully placed on the straw mat below. To the little girl, this slaughtered bird represented all the horrors of war, death, cruelty and fascism. She saw the bird had been slaughtered not because of anything it had done, but simply because it wanted to fly. She was traumatized, and from that day forward, she had an intense phobia of birds and could not even look at them.
      But one day, 50 years later, while browsing in a junk store near her home, she stumbled across an old, ugly handmade decanter {{picture}} in the shape of a bird with its head chopped off. The store owner told her, “I can sell it to you at a discount because its head is missing.” She purchased the decanter and brought it to her studio. Then using the decanter as a model, she began to paint the bird: she fell into a trance-like state and worked 12 hours every day in her studio painting different images of the slaughtered bird. She did not know what was compelling her to paint, but she kept working for two months, uninterrupted, and produced 45 works.

     The early works of this series were bloody and showed the bird’s torn feathers and broken wings, and blood. But by the time she reached the 22d work, she realized that the blood had turned into rose petals, and that the Bird was in a cathedral and that she was painting a Requiem for him. She continued her work as the bloody reds turned into gold, and the Bird now hovered in golden circles of heavenly air.
It was only after she had completed the 45th work that she was able to leave the studio and return to her normal life, and normal state of consciousness. The Bird had been healed, and she also had been healed. The phobia was gone, and the traumatic experience had been transcended.

 

CLICK THE IMAGE TO SEE A SLIDE SHOW OF SELECTIONS FROM REQUIEM

© 2015 by Junko Chodos.

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