Friday, March 21, 2008

Millinery: Japanese Elevator Girls and Christ

Japanese photo artist Yanagi's work is currently on display at the Houston Museum of Fine art. There are three different projects on display; I was most interested in her photo series about Japanese elevator girls.

In Japan, young women work the elevators in perfectly matched outfits. Perhaps more importantly, the women are selected by their similarities. The height, weight, expressions are to be lovely, yet they are to exhibit no personal expression.

Yanagi actually hired girls to work as models, and photographed them in empty spaces to portray the women as essentially "products" like we might consider any set of item for sale in a department store.

Naturally I was drawn to the women's hats and gloves. But the images stayed in my mind, and the artist's message caused me to ponder.

Would it be better to have simple daily services provided impersonally?
After all, each time I enter an elevator, I might not wish to greet and make mental space for another person's personality in my thoughts. It would be much easier to just enjoy the image projected, and the service provided, and not trouble myself with the person behind the costume.

Today is Good Friday. I am considering the sacrifice of our Savior. As He was raised upon the cross as a sacrifice for humankind, I believe He did so mindful of not only the people around Him, but also of the generations to come; and the many people from place which were yet unknown.

There is a billboard near my house that states that "While He was on the Cross, you were on His mind."
I'm not sure if it was possible for Christ to consider each soul that was ever to trod the face of the earth while He was in agony. I am quite sure that from the foundations of the earth, He was mindful of each soul, and made a plan to make redemption possible for each and every person who shared the Adamic DNA.

It was such an enormous act; dwelling among people, dying so horribly, descending to the depth of Hell, then returning to Heaven, the God who became Man; the Son of God/the Son of Man.

Would it please Him to see service offered like the elevator girls do, in a manner that strips them of personality and uniqueness? Would their acceptance of their attire and demeanor be seen as a humble sacrifice?
Or would He be dismayed that the unique creation that each woman was intended to be was instead smothered for the mental expediency of others?

I don't know the answer to this question. I am thinking about it...remembering the clergical garments worn to make worship service focus less on the individual and more on the One to whom service was being offered. I think about the Sisters of Charity in their simple matching saris quietly serving the needs of others. I think of the military, the sports teams, and costumed dancers.

I am thinking about the pre-boomer population which treasured conformity over individuality, and community over personal expression. The book "Another Country" explored the ramifications upon society when individuality reigns and no one is there to serve the needs of others.

I once heard a sermon about the idea that each person is made in the image of God; each person's image is a facet of Who God Is, and yet each face is a marred expression. The preacher suggested that the reason we wince when we view a damaged person, either physically or mentally is because deep inside we acknowledge it a ruining of the reflection of Perfection.

There was another artist with works on display at the museum. The Korean brush and ink artist Suh Se-ok created this piece entitled "People Dancing."
It took me awhile to see people dancing in this design.
Perhaps that is what I should really look for: People dancing as individuals even when at first glance I might see nothing.
It takes more time and effort to see people beyond the first impression.
This post is awkward, and my thought are still incomplete.
I am far from complete resolution of the subject of Japanese Elevator Girls, Redemption and Humble Service.
It is, as I said before, Good Friday.
It is a good day to ponder many things.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your blog today, as always. It gave me a good beginning of the day, that is so important to us all. I shared it with Harold so he was able to enjoy it too. Very interesting about the Japanese elevator girls too. Love, momA.

Vicki said...

Wow, Jill. What a leap from elevator girls to Jesus conquering the cross! This is an excellent focus for today. You've given me something to think about as I finish going through all of these little boxes and details and cabinets and closets...

Sara said...

Thanks for your though-provoking post offer a lot to think about.

Julie said...

ohh.. Jill.. well written! and much food for thought!
I do believe if Jesus stepped on a Japanese elevator He would see past the 'uniformity'- He would see and touch the individual!

I wish you a blessed Easter week-end...and rejoice with you for the awesome sacrifice of our Lord and His resurrection on that glorious Son-day morning !!

Lin said...

Am I to understand that you were at MFAH today? So were we. We went through the Pompeii exhibit with the LSC-Kingwood Art Club. We also took in the DaVinci exhibit at the HMNS. Both were excellent exhibits, but I had more of a personal connection with Pompeii since I was there in 1973 and actually went inside the upper rim of Mt Vesuvius crater. I wish I knew you were there. I would have looked for you. We didn't go through the photo section with the Japanese girls because of time constraints, but I sure would like to go back to check it out. Great post, Jill. As always, you touched me with this blog. Oh, and I hope it was okay to put your azalea photo on my desktop at home. It is so cheerful that I love to look at it.

Becky said...

Yes, what a contradiction between confomity and individuality. Its a good thing Christ is completely aware of the benefits of both. Afterall, He called us to be a body, a group, a team working towards a common goal, and yet he allows individuality to speak from that.
Good post, I enjoyed the ponderings!

Kate said...

While briefly in Houston we managed to have dinner with academic friends just returned from a 3 month sabbatical in Tokyo. My friend said she'd never seen so many beautiful hats on the ladies. Also, an interesting phenomenon are girls dressed totally in costume (Little Bo Peep etc.) sort of an expression of individuality in a culture of conformity. Maria said she'd never seen so much attention to beauty and detail as she saw there. I DO know that Stephen Jones has a line of hats that are sold exclusively in Japan. Interesting no? K Q:-)