paintings on canvas
24" x 36" each
In Okunoin, Osaka, Japan there is a cemetery called Okunoin, which is populated with hundreds of Mizuko Jizos, figures which represent the "patron saint" of lost children. The statues mark childrens’ graves in the largest cemetery in Japan, settled in 819. A World Heritage sacred site, it is dedicated to Shingon Japanese Buddhism.
Mizuko Jizos range in size and are sometimes simply dressed Bodhisattvas. The characters in the name translate to "water- baby"; the lost children who float in an otherworld realm. In current Japanese culture, young children are revered as "mysterious beings" not of this world.
Water-Babies is a series of paintings I based on the figures marking children's graves in the Okunoin cemetery. I visited Japan before the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, and had begun this series before the tragedy. While working on this series, I was haunted by the memory of the Mizuko Jizos dressed in children's hats or bibs, placed there so that spirits would recognize and protect the lost children. It was humbling to walk through Okunoin's forest of ancient trees, and stone figures. Some bibs were firecracker red, others faded.
After the spring earthquake, I was midway through the series and decided to dedicate the work and proceeds from its exhibition to relief efforts in Japan.
This artwork is dedicated to these lost children, the "Water-Babies".