Writespiration: Takashi Murakami’s “Kansei Korin Gold”

Living in Chicago means you can see something spectacular on any given weeknight. Tuesday night was the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Takashi Murakami exhibit. For a casual art lover and music fiend like myself, the main attractions were the work he did for Kanye West’s “Graduation” album (see below); the multiple recreations of D.O.B., his twisted Mickey-Mouse-esque mascot (also below); and his full-wall murals that combine elements of traditional Japanese artists like Hokusai with modern creators like Hayao Miyazaki and Jim Henson in complex cities of activity.

But, as was probably intended by the curators, I left with a far different impression of the avant-garde Japanese artist’s work — and a new favorite that’s still got me thinking a day later.

Takashi Murakami's "Kensei Korin Gold," a circular screenprint with multicolored leaves and flowers.

Takashi Murakami’s “Kensei Korin Gold,” as seen at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

“Kensei Korin Gold” (above) is is far more spectacular in person than in a photo. The gold leaf background is textured with blobbish smiling skulls, and the black waves sparkle with orange glitter, as if Murakami colored them in with one of the Glitter Crayolas from my childhood. Each flower has a slightly different facial expression such as joy, dismay, sluggishness, shock, etc., which turn this from a standard ornamental Japanese print to something with fantasy and personality.

That’s the kind of detail, diversity and dichotomy I try to inject into my own work. Instead of screenprinting, I use screenwriting (and prose-writing, poem-writing, etc.) to try to create things that are, like “Kensei Korin Gold,” attractive from afar and downright mesmerizing up-close. Seeing how easily Murakami does this is both challenging and inspiring.

Takashi Murakami's art for Kanye West's "Graduation" album

Murakami’s cover art for Kanye West’s “Graduation” album. That small image glowing on my iPhone screen is nothing compared to the glossy original currently hanging at the MCA.

"Tan Tan Bo" by Takashi Murakami

“Tan Tan Bo” by Takashi Murakami — A version of his mascot, D.O.B., who is a visual combustion of Japanese and American animation.


Music of the Write: “Gangsta’s Paradise” arranged by Position Music

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits theaters today, and it’s the newest scifi escape by Fifth Element and Lucy director Luc Besson. Regardless of whether the movie is good, it did us the favor of presenting a heart-pounding orchestral remix of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” in the final trailer. Then again, I’m a sucker for musical scores based on unexpected popular songs. Just wait until I start posting about Ramin Djwadi’s Westworld score.


Writespiration: Two mummies from 1942 found in a Swiss glacier

Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin left to hike in the Alps on a summer day in 1942, never to be seen again for 75 years when a worker on a ski lift noticed two mummified bodies in the melting ice.

Today NPR published a story about the two bodies dressed in WWII-era clothing and discovered last Friday within the shrinking Tsanfleuron glacier. The story itself didn’t captivate me nearly as much as the photo: Eerie without being overly graphic.


GLACIER 3000/Keystone via AP

The Dumoulin’s youngest daughter, now in her 70s, said the discovery gave her a sense of relief, but I can’t imagine how she feels seeing the photos. She’s not the only one to experience finding a long-lost loved one in shrinking glaciers: NPR listed a few other cases, including three brothers who disappeared in 1926 and found in 2012 on the Valais’ Aletsch glacier; two Japanese climbers who disappeared in 1970 and found at the foot of the Valais’ Matterhorn glacier in 2015; and a German skier missing since 1963 and found in the Graubunden’s Morteratsch glacier just last year.

Centuries-old glaciers begin to disappear and decades-old bodies reappear: As climate change threatens our future, it’s also helping us connect with our past.

Sounds like a good theme for a story.


Music of the Write: “Dark Horse” by the Shanghai Restoration Project (feat. Hooshere)

This song first caught my ear when it came on shuffle as I was reading Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a sleuthing story — picture a montage of a detective decoding a victim’s journal or charting GPS coordinates. Or, in the case of one of my current projects, an editor piecing together a former reporter’s field notes to figure out what landed her in a mental institution.