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  • Writer's pictureSarah Taylor Ko

The Only Treasure I Wanted

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

The intersection between the creative disciplines of visual art and poetry is where I took my latest series of work.

As a Christmas gift I received The Museum of Small Bones by Miho Nonaka, Wheaton College professor and my daughter's mentor in writing. Even though I am a big fan of poetry, I found this little collection truly puzzling in some respects. Dr. Nonaka uses surprising imagery. She offers a unique perspective on our culture because she approaches it at once from inside as an expert in writing and from outside having grown up in Japan. I didn't always understand on an intellectual level, but I nevertheless felt from the poems what it was like to be isolated, misunderstood, and the keenest of amused observers.

Because of the stunning number of unexpected visual images in the poems, I wanted to interpret them into a visual form. I discovered that I understood the poems in new ways as I translated them into a painting.

The Only Treasure I Wanted is inspired by the poem Beetle Shrine. I made a list before I started of all the things I thought I might include: the color green, beetles, dark pink, a temple with tigers, a flashlight, a first kiss. I took the title from a line in the poem, "The only treasure I wanted was to see at Horyuji Temple, a miniature shrine..." I included the letter T for "tiger" and for "treasure" in gold leaf. I also engraved some subtle X marks, thinking of treasure maps, and then realizing that X can sometimes mean kiss too. I made some lighter shapes reminiscent of the triangle of light from a flashlight, and of course there are plenty of emerald green beetles. I glazed the work with an antique bronze color to lend the feeling of time passing.

I hope that my painting reflects in some way the sense of memory and yearning for something precious that the poem also creates.

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