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Okubo, Benji [ bio ]

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H: 18 in, W: 16 in, Frame: 23.5 x 21.5 in

United States, 1927-1941


Gift of Chisato Okubo


Stretched and framed.

Portrait of woman praying with hands pressed together and gazing upward at a mint green crucifix in yellow hued background. She has red hair and brows, bright salmon pink lips, and pink-beige tone skin. Wearing in a green dress with a small gold and teal flower print throughout, yellow ruffles at the cuff, and a banded white neck trim with pink stitching, the woman faces left with her face turned so that nearly all of her proper left profile is shown. A few inches from her face, a small mint-green Christ on the crucifix floats head first downward at top left. A mission-style church and rows of tombstones are in the distance over her proper right shoulder, bottom right. The sky is painted a bright lemon yellow, darkening to a shade of yellow orange at the horizon. The painting is rendered in a softly modeled manner, where the colors are so well blended that no visible brush strokes can be detected in the background and larger areas of the face. To show the detail in the hair, brows, lashes, eyes, ears, nose, lips and hands, the artist employs extremely delicate rendered contour lines. In particular, the lines comprising the strands of hair are flowing and rhythmic. The woman is centrally placed in the canvas and her eyes, the Christ figure and her hands in prayer, and her swooping white collar all help to lead the viewer's eyes through the painting, and to the focal point -- the interaction between the woman and Christ figure. The majority of colors in this painting are warm tones -- yellow, apricot, orange, peach and coral -- lending a golden glow to the overall painting. Notably, the Christ and the church are green, setting them apart from the rest of the painting. The style of the painting is similar to Hideo Date's paintings, having a basis in Stanton MacDonald-Wright's synchromism movement with its emphasis on color harmony. balance of form and rhythmic lines. The inclusion of the floating Christ figure, however, touches upon a surrealistic style. Naturalistic surrealism in a 20th century movement in art in which recognizable scenes are transformed into a dream or nightmare image.

In this painting, the artist provides the viewer with an intimate glimpse of a woman in a spiritual reverie. By juxtaposing the woman's vision of the Christ floating on his crucifix with the solidity of the church in the background, the contrast between the spiritual world and physical world is depicted. Through prayer, the woman simultaneously occupies the realm of the divine and human.

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