Earlier this summer, the acclaimed illustrator, animator, children’s book author, graphic novelist, and editorial cartoonist R. O. Blechman donated one of his works of art to the Norman Rockwell Museum. This work had been shown in Blechman’s spring 2013 museum exhibition, R. O. Blechman: The Inquiring Line, one of the series of focus exhibits the museum offers called the Distinguished Illustrators series of exhibitions produced by the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies. Even though the donation has not yet been voted into the museum’s permanent collections by the museum’s Board of Trustees, I wanted to let you all know about the gift.
R. O. Blechman (b. 1930)
Feng Shui, 2010
Ink, watercolor, silver paint, and collage on paper
Norman Rockwell Museum Collection, gift of R. O. Blechman
The work is an ink, watercolor, silver paint, and collage on paper illustration called Feng Shui and was created by Blechman in 2010. It is one of a series of illustrations, mostly done that some year, reflecting some bit of contemporary news. Each of these has a political focus comparing and/or contrasting our culture with another’s. Our gift shows a pale green and white Chinese dragon standing on its hind legs being examined by a man in a white lab coat who stands at the top of an interminable stack of stairs in order to reach the dragon’s mouth. The stairs refer to a Reuters news service quote (you can read below) Blechman copied and attached to the image about the feng shui master who found that the eastern entrance of the court house “had an unlucky number of stairs.”
Feng Shui, the Chinese system for the auspicious ordering of the physical world (especially with regard to placement of buildings and tombs), uses the laws of Heaven and Earth to improve one’s life by receiving positive qi (pronounced chee). The term translates as wind-water, so Blechman envisioned the dragon, the Chinese animal of wind and water, to express this force. To make another connection to the Chinese beliefs that are the foundation of the image, Blechman signed his name at the upper left of the work in a Chinese-style text block.
The Reuters quote attached to the lower right of the illustration reads: “China: Court fights scandal with Feng Shui The Shenzhen intermediates People’s Court in Guangdong Province, tainted by a bribery scandal, has hired a feng shui master to help purge the court building of bad luck, the Beijing News reported. The Court has begun renovations: the eastern side of the building was facing a factory with an inauspicious smokestack, while the western side needed a pair of stone lions to ward off “misfortune,” according to the advice given the court by the master, the paper said. The master also found that the eastern entrance had an unlucky number of stairs. (Reuters)”
The Norman Rockwell Museum’s growing collection of political illustrations and/or cartoons expands in a significant way with the acquisition of Bob Blechman’s gift of Feng Shui. Not only does Blechman’s illustration provide contemporary American culture a view into contemporary Chinese practices, it also gently reminds us that a portion of our own culture has adopted the practice of Feng Shui.
In 2013, the Norman Rockwell Museum and curator Joyce K. Schiller thanked Bob Blechman for working with us to create an exhibit that viewed a broad range of his work from the breadth of his career. Today, we again want to thank the artist for his generous donation of this noteworthy gift to the museum’s art collections.
Dr. Joyce K. Schiller, Curator, Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, Norman Rockwell Museum