News Column

Study of the Geisha: Exhibit on display at Art League

May 6, 2014

By Jill Whalen, Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.

May 06--Hazleton Art League manager Mark Charles Rooney was on hand for the opening of renowned Japanese photographer Taka Kobayashi's exhibit at the league gallery.

"Many visitors gasped audibly when entering the gallery," he said.

Rooney understood. Kobayashi's photos examining the world of the geisha are impressive, he said.

"I have never seen visitors study the art as closely as visitors to this exhibit do," Rooney noted.

Because of the enthusiasm, Rooney extended the exhibit's run by two weeks. It will be at the 225 E. Broad St. gallery until May 25.

Kobayashi's photographs have traveled the world, on exhibit in locales such as Japan, France and the West Coast of the United States. The art league exhibit is part of an East Coast tour, said Kobayashi's wife, Deborah (Benjamin) Kobayashi.

Deborah Kobayashi helped arrange the exhibit.

"I attended Hazleton Area High School. (The late) Alice Wiltsie was my very inspirational art teacher there. My late mother, Edith Benjamin, was a staunch supporter of the Art League and with their encouragement I came to the Art League to take additional classes throughout high school," Deborah Kobayashi wrote in an email from Tokyo. "As a recipient of the annual college scholarship I also owe a debt of gratitude to the Art League. It is an important cultural asset of the Hazleton community."

When she realized that there was a break in the exhibit's schedule, Deborah Kobayashi contacted the art league.

"I asked (league co-president) Carl Frankel if the Art League would be interested. (my way of saying thank you to the people who have been so dedicated to supporting art in the area)," she wrote. "He referred me to Mark Rooney who has worked very hard to make this possible."

The Kobayashi photographs -- 21 in all -- are of the maiko, or women training to become geisha. The large-scale, color photos show the women posing in traditional and elaborate kimono dresses.

Kobayashi's inspiration came from a 2007 visit to the Gion district of Kyoto, where he watched a traditional tea ceremony performed by a geisha-in-training.

"I found myself deeply fascinated with Kosen and her world, which combined modesty and dignity," he has said. "Almost instantly I was seized with a keen desire to photograph her. To be more precise I wished to capture her evolution from a maiko into a geisha, like that from a chrysalis into a butterfly."

For the print method, he uses a technique that borders the oil-on-canvas technique.

"I focused on cool and stylish finishing, considering that she is a modern girl living in Hanamachi, a geisha district," he said.

The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, contact Rooney at 570-817-1075.


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Source: Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, PA)

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