I believe I have posted about Clifton Karhu before. Originally from Minnesota, Karhu moved to Japan later in life, taking up residence in Kyoto and in Kanazawa, and became an accomplished printer, producing prints with a distinctive contemporary style, but of traditional subjects, and, an especial rarity these days, carved in the traditional manner.
Karhu passed away a few years ago, but Norman Tolman continues to sell his prints, to hold shows of his works, and to donate prints as well to prominent museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
When I first was introduced to Mr. Karhu’s work by Mr. Tolman, at his gallery just outside Shiba Daimon, I was stunned not only by the images themselves, but by the whole story and personality behind them. It is inspiring to think that a foreigner could become so involved – and well respected, so far as I know – in traditional arts, or, that is, contemporary arts closed related to traditional arts, and could be so successful at living in Japan. I of course wish the same for myself; how wonderful it would be to live in a place like Kyoto or Kanazawa, and to be accepted as a respected member of the local community and the arts community.
Since Mr. Karhu’s death, of course, his works have risen in price as the supply shrinks. They are truly compelling works, speaking volumes about the importance of traditional arts and culture, traditional environments and atmosphere created (maintained) through the maintenance and appreciation of traditional architecture, etc.
I regret that I cannot be there myself, but Mr. Tolman will be giving a talk at Showa Boston Institute, 420 Pond Street, in Boston, on December 7th, from 5-8pm. [Do you suppose he picked Pearl Harbor Day by coincidence?] The talk will focus mainly on the work of Toko Shinoda, and sadly it does not appear that Showa Boston is at all easily accessible via the T, but I am told that the Museum of Fine Arts will be displaying many of Karhu’s prints at some point around this time as well.