Reinventing The Japanese Kokeshi Doll
Kokeshi dolls are simple, wooden dolls that date back to 1830s Japan. They were carved out of a single piece of wood, given an elongated shape with exaggerated head and no arms or legs, and painted with various faces and outfits.
Well, gamers out there will notice some similarities between the Kokeshi and the Mii avatars that one creates for the Nintendo Wii. That's because it was revealed by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto (Mario, Zelda, etc.) at last year's Game Developers Conference that the Kokeshi were indeed the inspiration for these customized avatars. Here's the Mii of yours truly.
Coming up this weekend, however, is a very cool modern reinvention of this cultural tradition. Subtext, a gallery in San Diego, has invited 75 contemporary artists to reinterpret the Kokeshi doll. Among them are some of my favorites: there's Audrey Kawasaki, whom I've mentioned before in this blog. There's also Brandi Milne, a similarly art-nouveau-inspired illustrator and artist, whose captivating style blends a lot of the Asian fantasy elements that I love, with a touch of the 70s psychedelia I grew up with (definitely worth checking her out). And there's also Julie West, whom I hadn't heard of until I found out about this show, but whose works evoke in me a sort of cartoon-nostalgia that I can't quite place--I look forward to learning more about her.