“Mugwort’s Leaves”


Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji is a series of landscape ukiyo-e (prints) by Hokusai. No.35 is titled “Sunsyuejiri” (駿州江㞍) which captured a strong wind blowing away papers and hats in the countryside. The structure is very minimalistic with Mt. Fuji, reeds, and some traversals; however, Hokusai described the strong wind so well with his perfect arc of tracing papers and hats against the magnificent Mt. Fuji.

I wanted to use his arc techniques in my graphic poem, “Mugwort’s Leaves”, when I found the base washi-paper in Takayama. The paper was already pressed with dried reeds, flowers, and Japanese mugwort (yomogi). The reeds showed beautiful natural movements on the paper. With the paper, I added origami slits to support more arc movements around the bottle; therefore, it is like a wind blowing around the bottle like a magic potion.

This poem was inspired by my grandfather who used to make a lotion with mugwort’s young leaves. The words flowed from the top part into the bottle. The liquid was brown (like the color of the bottom part of the graphic poem) and had a certain unpleasant smell; however, my grandfather’s generation believed that it would cure my chronic dry skin. They believe in a more naturalistic approach than current medical treatment. Another example, in the poem, he said, “It may cure (you) when you marry”.

In the bottle, the organic liquid is contained, and it leads to the last line, “I scraped my cheeks. My nails split.” This naturalistic approach fails, so does Grandfather’s effort to his granddaughter who scratches her skin. I scraped off some of the base washi-paper to show a fleshy red color (flower petals) to represent scars on her skin. This piece is a one of my heartbroken collection.