Kumanokotai Shrine

July 20, 2021

Located in Nagano Prefecture, this shrine was an exciting project for me. I was commissioned to paint the ceiling, and after many sketches and intense planning, I came up with a design that involved 2,400 sheets of Kanazawa gold leaf on 24 wooden panels. The work was completed in my Karuizawa studio.

The title pays homage to the devotion shown by Princess Oto Tachibana to her husband Prince Yamato Takeru, and I decided to donate this work to the shrine and the people of Karuizawa in gratitude for the richness my life has taken on since I moved there. When I was asked if I would paint a large scale work for the ceiling of the new hall, I didn’t hesitate.

For various reasons, it was a perfect fit for me artistically, spiritually and personally. The Bushido Series I have been working on for fifteen years was initially inspired by a visit with my wife to a Shinto Shrine in Osaka. While there reflecting on the history of the shrine and appreciating both the simplicity and complexity of the act of gratitude, I noticed a set of rusted hinges on one of the doors. I stared at it for a very long time, thinking about the endurance of metal and how ideas, like metal, persist, fundamentally unaltered by a little rust.

My wife’s family are practitioners of Shinto, and I have always felt a sense of peace at Shinto Shrines. I have now lived in Karuizawa for eleven years and thus have prayed at Kumanokotai Shrine regularly over that time.

When I reflect on that visit to the shrine in Osaka and think about contribution, community and wanting to give something back to the town and country I love, I am honored to have this opportunity to contribute to Kumanokotai Shrine. I hope my painting will bring joy to the many visitors to the Shrine over many years to come.