A Kusudama is a decorative object dropped from the ceiling, although here its likeness is depicted in a scroll. Originally, as its name 薬玉 (ball of medicinal herb) suggests, it took the form of a bundle of herbs tied with thread that were used to ward off sickness and evil. Although ribbons, bows, and other colorful elements were eventually woven in to Kusudama, they remain little more than decorative objects. In this work, Gessan painted the decoration often found on “boy’s day” (may 5th) to pray for and celebrate boys’ healthy growth.
Gessen saw an otherwise lifeless object and painted it full of life, making it sway ever so slightly to the left as if a faint breeze provided a gentle nudge. Only an artist trained in the Ukiyo-e tradition, of a colorful, floating world of geishas and courtesans, could make this dry ornament so subtly seductive.
About the Artist
Ogota Gessan (1887 - 1967) is a son of the Ukiyo-e artist, Ogata Gekko (1859 - 1920).