The Spring Bubble

10653533_601202429790_5731235957422907425_nThis post is long overdue but as Spring winds down and we transition into Summer, I can’t help but reflect on its beauty from the east to the west. Many holidays have passed by, at home and in the countries I once visited, that showcase how great spring can be when we’re expressing our honor for each other. Easter, Holi, The Cherry Blossom Festival, Mother’s Day, Children’s Day, Buddha’s Birthday and, last but not least, Memorial Day, all have unique activities that relate to the season and how we interact with our landscape. When observing Easter, to represent new life, the symbol of an egg is commonly used and the practice of painting them gives color to the holiday as little pops of pastels peak out from under the greenery. I witnessed Holi through an Indian group in Korea, who held the celebration on Busan Beach overlooking the East Sea. It definitely was a spectacular sight when they counted down to “Holi Hai” and threw powdered paint up in the air with the backdrop of the sea glistening behind them.

The first tree I always notice coming back to life after a harsh winter are the Cherry Blossoms, so it’s no surprise to me that they would have festivals for them on both sides of the world. Hundreds of people crowded the parks in Korea and in Washington, DC just to catch a glimpse and sit under their pink shade. It’s the only time when I see pink and white as a powerful palette. I can appreciate the minimalism of color on Hakata dolls or the repetition of cherry blossom patterns on kimonos and scrolls. I brought some home from Japan, which happen to stand out the most from all my treasures.

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May was probably the most eventful because there are a lot of days dedicated to honoring the people we love, the people in our bubble. I was able to observe Parent’s Day, Children’s Day and Buddha’s Birthday in Korea and how people shower each other with gifts like lush flower arrangements and fancy hanboks. Buddha’s Birthday was the most extravagant holiday because all of the temples came to life with lantern lights strung around the block and mile long parades.

20160531_002220Last year around this time, I was in Tokyo which made me think of Spring in a whole new light. The most memorable moments were the fashion, from traditional clothes to funky street styles or the mix of both. The fashions of Tokyo reminded me of characters out of a fairy tale or animation, even the simple fashions which may have been muted in color but dramatic in fit. The simple white, red and gold garments of traditional wedding dress around the temples contrasted greatly with the bold, vibrant hues of Harajuku attire occasionally topped off with a bright wig and graphic accessories. I checked out a few shops and quickly realized how important accessorizing with little trinkets (or decora) are in everyday life, especially with the theme of baby animals. I finally understood the attraction people have with Hello Kitty. I was drawn to the bags, pins, clips, toys and stationary glittered around each store because they were so cute and miniature. “Cute and miniature” are definitely key words of my experience, so I couldn’t resist buying an expensive, handmade pin, made out of a little pencil from a shop called Sis Art and Craft.

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Now that Memorial Day has passed and people are starting to cook out in their shorts, it symbolizes to me that the Spring bubble has popped and Summer is here…almost. I’m excited for the outdoor street festivals, craft markets and new fashions to come.

 

 

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Remembering Taiwan this Chinese New Year

This month I decided to write two posts because my January post was a bit lacking. What better way to do that than to write about something very relevant to this current time of year: Lunar New Year aka Chinese New Year! I have never been to China, other than the Shanghai Airport for layovers, but I have been to Taiwan (the Republic of China) where Chinese New Year is still the biggest event of the year lasting almost a month. Taiwan has a traditional Chinese and aboriginal influence on their art. There were three major places I experienced unique cultural art and creativity:

  1. Wulai Hot Springs Village
  2. Li-Yuan Peking Opera Theatre
  3. Taipei City Contemporary Art and Advertising

IMG_20140810_175826Let’s start with Wulai. Similar to most native cultures, there is a distinct way of dress including multiple layers, accessories and detailed textiles. The color scheme consists of one or two pops of color like red, yellow, pink or blue. They don’t use as much gold as Southeast Asia but you can spot some gold threading in different outfits. The textiles are reminiscent of Peruvian styles with their geometric shapes and they may include feathers and beading decals to finish off a look. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to buy some aboriginal wooden dolls while I was there. In addition to the clothing, the Atayal aboriginals designed meaningful streaked facial tattoos. Last but not least, there is a distinct chant that the aboriginals have. I remember when I first heard Return to Innocence on the movie Man of the House (1995) and I walked around everyday humming and imitating the chant. At that time, I didn’t know it was from a Taiwanese Amis aboriginal couple Difang (郭英男) and Igay (郭秀珠) Duana; I thought it was a Native American chant.

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The Peking Opera Theater is one of Taiwan’s cultural links to a historical Chinese art. You can see a drastic difference in pattern and color palette for the the wardrobe and costumes in relation to the aboriginal style. It features a cooler blue, white, red and yellow scheme with floral decals and swirls. The sleeves are so long they drag on the floor and it’s part of the act to see how intensely the actors flail their sleeves around during their conversations. The facial make-up is an integral part of the opera experience so the actors spend hours getting ready. They create a pink to white gradient effect on their face, stemming from the eyes down, and accentuate their eyes and eyebrows by painting long, black lines across them. The characters, like the red-faced Guan Yu figure, are common to see around temples and other historic places. In contrast, during festivals the decoration seems to take on a more vibrant neon yellow, green and pink color scheme.

IMG_20140807_212906My first encounter with Taipei’s modern design was, of course, through their commercial advertisements. On a late night stroll around the Taipei 101, I noticed the bright, sparkling Heineken display sprawled across the windows of the ATT 4 FUN Department Store. Going from destination to destination throughout Taiwan, I saw strange and intriguing art installations in the subway stations, especially on my way to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). The Zhongshan Metro Mall is an underground mall that has sections decorated by local artists. My favorite section was No.4 Square (between Shop B39 and B42) because the modern graffiti-style with cute animated characters made me feel happy. At the No.5 Square (Jazz Squares), I was amazed to see young dancers practicing diligently in front of mirrored walls and I tried to coolly walk by when all I wanted to do was stare. Departing the station, I noticed a trail of alien character doodles leading up the exit. It wasn’t long before I saw the “Welcome to the Galaxy Railway” installation produced by Tang-Wei Hsu for the MoCA. The museum was actually closed the day I went so I just surveyed all the art surrounding the building and there was still plenty to see.

Instead of graffiti that commonly sweeps a city, Taiwanese residents create illustrations of their opinions on social and political issues and affix it to the walls. The particular issue I saw at the time had to do with the leveling of parks to create a huge Taipei Dome, in which people were very angry and sentimental. Sometimes words aren’t enough to express how you feel.

My hostel was about a block from the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park, yet I didn’t discover it until my last day. It was a great note to end on. The museums were all closed that day but not the Hello Kitty show and the Eslite Spectrum Songyan store. Eslite was definitely a nice place to explore artsy boutiques, like Expo, or stop and participate in an art project. Bordering the park are eccentric restaurants and stores and one in particular stood out to me. Ma Ma Umbrella and Handmade Market (MaMa 松菸店, No. 48, Lane 553, Section 4, Zhongxiao E Rd, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan 110) has hand picked one-of-a-kind products including hats, umbrellas, backpacks, key chains and other accessories. I don’t know of any store in America like it and it is the first time I saw the JumpFromPaper 3D cartoon bag. It is definitely worth a stop and the neighborhood, in general, is a great place to nourish your creativity.

Bali Vitality

In honor of my post last month, I am going to talk about the beauty and vitality of Bali. My photos highlighted the more tranquil and serene moments on a walk through Ubud but there is an abundance of vibrant life reflected in its cultural art forms. The traditional craftsmanship of wood and stone carvings line the streets. Hinduism is prevalent through these intricate carvings and range from tiny trinkets of Dewi Sri to massive statues of Hanuman in the middle of a traffic circle. Even the straw baskets used to give offerings are impressively detailed with colorful patterns.

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Hinduism also influences the architecture, fashion, and performing arts which you can find intermingled in one. When I arrived in Ubud, which is known as the arts capital, I found an array of options. There were bright orange temples, bold textiles, ornate shadow puppets and a dance style unparalleled to any other. At night, I was able to see nearly everything in one place when I ventured to the Palace to see a traditional Legong dance performance. It was set in the courtyard of the Palace and included expressive make-up, masks and costumes. Musicians sat on the outskirts of the stage, playing golden instruments that carried the hypnotic sounds of Bali through the incense filled air. It was something you have to experience live to get the full effect of all the beauty it encompassed but here is a little peak.

 

2015-08-06 16.41.28The dance style was so appealing that I wanted to try it for myself, so I took a Balinese dance class with Gusti Ayu Sri Sukanadi at WS Art Studio where I learned the secular Tari Panyembrahma (Welcome) Dance. There was more story behind each controlled movement than I had imagined and it was very challenging but a lot of the movements were repetitive. This studio had other arts you could try so I peaked in on others making batik and pen illustrations. One thing I found odd was how many of the galleries in Kuta featured paintings of Native American icons, dream catchers and chief headdresses. It was just interesting to think of how they’ve looked at the West and found the beauty in our native culture that we don’t often embrace. I was also lucky enough to stop in one of the workshops, Karya Mas Gallery, where I saw many people sitting on the floor intensely carving and whittling wood, surrounded by all their creations. I bought a small Dewi Sri statue (goddess of rice and fertility) which intrigued me because her stance is so graceful and curvilinear, even with the sharp points on her shoulders and head. After passing so many bright galleries and boutiques I took the plunge and went all out on a Balinese kebaya outfit featuring a bright magenta/gold/blue batik sarung and a royal blue lace top. So far I have only worn the sarung (by Unggul Jaya).

Five years ago, Harper’s Bazaar did a feature on Kebaya that is unforgettable. Check out the images below and tell me what you think.

 

The All Women Art Exhibition

In December, I submitted two photographs to the All Women Art Exhibition. Recently, I was notified of the results and I am happy to receive special recognition for my work. I was greatly inspired by the serenity in Bali and both of my submissions were images captured during my time there. Take a look and let me know what you think!

My submissions:

life

Still Life

rice-goddess

The Comfort of a Goddess


 

SR  - Ericka Mills- ALL WOMEN - 2016 ART EXHIBITION -  CERTIFICATE

Let Me Introduce The Queen

62When you go to Toronto, it is abundantly clear how influential street art and freedom of expression are on the city. It’s glittered with art/design studios and graffiti on almost every corner. Creativity literally pops out because street performers and store signs protrude from the sidewalks. Of course, the traditional architecture of churches, houses and theaters were beautiful but that’s not what really excites me. What’s exciting are building typefaces and exteriors shaped in the form of a store/retail theme, for example, the Scotiabank Theater has a tilted 3D cube on the top and features a 3D IMAX theater inside. You can easily spot it by overlooking from the CN Tower. Another example is the exterior of the Bovine (542 Queen Street West) which has scrap metal dripping down the front of the entrance and is a legendary punk, rock club. Torontonians care as much about the beauty of their buildings on the inside as they do on the outside as evidenced through the countless number of interior design retailers, studios and boutiques. Eurofab is one that immediately caught my attention because of its eye-catching pop of cyan, magenta, and yellow and elegant damask patterns.

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56The big draw to the city during my stay was the annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Film is an expression I can appreciate the most and apparently so does the royal family. At one of the movies I went to (Rebelle) we had to wait, stand and acknowledge the entrance of Sophie, the Countess of Wessex. In conjunction with film comes a lot of advertising, some more unique and inspiring than others. I noticed in general how advertising surrounds the city walls and central hang out spots, usually in a graffiti style. Sanko Trading Co., which is a Japanese store, illustrated the entire side of their building with images iconic to Japan.

65I could envision Toronto as just the place for guerrilla marketing, specifically Queen Street West with all of its one-of-a-kind stores, like the colorful, over-the-top, Original store. The frenetic energy of Queen Street left a deep impression of how great Toronto can be. There are art markets, outdoor restaurants, eclectic, bold fashions and colors bleeding out of every crevice. Between Spadina Avenue and Portland Street you can find Graffiti Alley, a wonderful escape to lose yourself in the land of graffiti art. Toronto opened my eyes to this art and how to use it as a form of advertising.

66-moccaLast but not least, I visited the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, which had more introspective pieces. Each piece had a deep message; some were about the deep roots of one’s culture and the struggles of what it means to be a Canadian with a different cultural background. On this walk along Queen Street I found so much to appreciate and hope to return to see what’s new and inspiring.

The First Time

Puerto Rico was my first solo trip and where I began to see the world differently. The scents, the smells, the colors, the flavors all culminating into a vibrant long-lasting memory. The beauty of Old San Juan exists in both the various pastel colors and Spanish colonial style of the buildings. Each door, terrace and exterior combination is unique. You can peak down a candied coated alley and feel the history of the city protruding through the arches and detailed façades.

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What inspired me the most is how the weather interacts with the city landscape, with the sunlight reflecting off of the buildings and spreading a rainbow of light. Even through the sporadic rain showers, you can still see a glow. It transcends into night when the city is romantically lit by strings of bulbs. What better way to remember this scene than to buy a small canvas painting of it.

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Puerto Rico was a cocktail of traditional and gritty street art. The graffiti murals were just as beautiful as the galleries and exhibited a great sense of nationalism and pride for the country. La Rogativa is a symbol of patriotism in an exaggerated, dramatic style that will leave anyone in awe.

Botanical Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico

The handcrafted souvenirs were not lacking in beauty or creativity. In addition to my painting, I also bought a pair of flutes in vibrant pink and purple hues (just two of the many color options). The skillful carving/whittling and painting showcases the pride Puerto Ricans have and continue to have in their work. I could feel this in their cooking, their fashion and their music and it was wonderful to be apart of it.

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If you would like to buy a painting like the one I bought in Puerto Rico,
you can find it at the ACPRGallery on Etsy.

Introduction

This blog is dedicated to exploring art and design in the countries I have visited (and prospective countries I may visit in the future). I will discuss some unique things I found in various art forms spanning from dance, theater, fine arts, architecture, advertising and graphic design.