meet hiroshi kimura: brilliant artist, total sweetheart

It’s been a year of paintings: for my big 30th birthday in February, my mom commissioned a painting of my cats done by a friend of hers who specializes in such things. I know it’s ridiculous, but I’d always wanted a painting of my three feline housemates, and the painting is totally adorable.

Then sometime this spring my sweetheart Jacob and I went to Rhinebeck, NY on a hunt for a Herman Miller chair Jacob had spied on Craig’s List (like this one, but blue and not a reproduction, and also about one zillion times cheaper than this one). The couple selling the chair (and the Heywood-Wakefield nightstands and the Arco lamp that required days of polishing and rewiring we bought as well, sigh) were a super cute and styley couple sadly moving to New Mexico. Their living room was dominated by a large painting, a sunset landscape of a highway. They said a friend of theirs had painted it. It was bittersweet and lush, and oddly emotional in a sort of pomo way. Jacob stopped and looked at it. On the way home (with one nightstand half falling out of the back of the car and the lamp poking me in the head), he said that it had reminded him of being on tour.

I could understand why immediately. It was drawn from the perspective of someone who could have easily been sitting in the front of a tour bus—next to the bus driver listening to country music or right wing talk radio, the sun almost imperceptibly setting on the horizon. Far away from home, on a bus full of tired musicians and crew. Swag and junk food and laptops and phones and beer bottles strewn everywhere—but all that is in the back. The front of a tour bus is lonelier, not as boisterous and collective and willfully high-spirited.

I’ve visited Jacob on tour enough to know how it goes: sitting in the front of the bus and watching America (or, in the case of this particular painting, Canada) rush by always leads to big thoughts. There is such a lack of fruited plains and spacious skies. It’s mostly just the same old shit in every city. Highways and tractor trailers as far as the eye can see. Sitting in the front of the bus, you can’t help but worry about the sunsetting of America—that all the blah spread out around you constitutes a true twilight’s last gleaming.

The painting seems to contain all these thoughts, but its beauty leads you somewhere else. It is unsettling, but has an edge of knowingly ridiculous beauty, does that make sense? Everything is so gorgeously rendered that you feel a little suspicious—there is more than a little true affection lavished on the cars and the road signs. The painting seems to be saying: isn’t that the thing? That even though we have gone way too far with it all, there is still a glimmer of pride and hopefulness in good old American (and Canadian!) ingenuity. Look at the mournful landscapes that are our legacy—but look also at the fervor and ardor that created this world, and wonder at how if it was slightly redirected, if things could begin to be wonderful again.

I find nature vastly more beautiful than anything humans have created, but art that merely celebrates the intense beauty of the natural world always falls flat with me. A painting like this isn’t merely beautiful, it also churns the viewer up inside, and that’s what I want art to do to me.

That’s what I got out of it, at any rate. And I was touched that Jacob was so touched by it.

Thinking as I do about his birthday months in advance (birthdays being as they are the only holidays that we celebrate (being as we are godless snobs who use stilted clauses like “being as they are” all the time), I emailed the chair-selling couple to see if their friend might have any other paintings for sale. I’d never bought true art before, just amateur kitchy stuff here and there, and I was nervous about the price, but decided it couldn’t hurt to inquire.

The painter turned out to be one Hiroshi Kimura, Brooklyn resident and quite possibly one of the sweetest people in existence on this planet.

Hiroshi offered to do a custom painting in the same vein as the one we had seen in Rhinebeck for a ridiculously reasonable price, and, just like that, I became a patron of the arts.

A few months later, Jacob and I went to Hiroshi’s studio to collect the painting and meet Hiroshi, who was exactly as sweet and quiet and deeply interesting as our e-mail correspondence had made him out to be. Today our painting hangs in our living room, and it lends a deeply calming yet slightly uncomfortable feeling to the house. I like that juxtaposition.

When I went to Google Hiroshi to learn about his work there was very little online. Thus, I thought I’d post this page so that future potential collectors will have something to look at. I won’t post a picture of our painting though—I want to hoard it, if that makes sense. But here are some images of some of Hiroshi’s other works.

Oh, but first: while working out the details of the painting and chatting over e-mail, I learned all about Hiroshi’s parents in Japan, who have a small-scale organic farm and a seemingly perfect rural lifestyle. Hiroshi’s mother does traditional Japanese indigo dyeing and other artisan crafts.

She also poses for insanely adorable snapshots:

Needless to say, I want to be Hiroshi’s mother when I grow up. Everything about this photo is everything I aspire to be: an expert mushroomer and wrangler of comically pliable and docile cats triumphantly reclining on a hill next to my impossibly large supply of neat and tidy firewood.

In contrast, tonight I got scratched by a very non-pliable cat (in her defense, I was trying to put a scarf on her head, Jackie O-style) and poked in the eye by a giant tree branch I had hauled into my living room in an unsuccessful bid to build a fire with green wood. Furthermore, my mushrooming skills have a ways to go: I have no idea what kind of mushrooms those could be—perhaps some sort of bolete?

One more lovely photo of his mother:

Oh gorgeous, gorgeous.

On to the paintings.

You can see some of his dark, mysterious etchings here, as well.

8 Responses to “meet hiroshi kimura: brilliant artist, total sweetheart”

  1. veronica

    Oh my god, the cat picture is way too adorable!

    What beautiful artwork, I especially love the fifth one down.
    And the etchings!

  2. Kay Weeks

    Hiroshi is a dear friend! His work is top rate. I was pleased to find your web site when I googled his name, and will share it with others. Kay

  3. Tim Midgett

    I’ve used several of H’s paintings for my band’s album covers. I have a couple paintings and some etchings, and I wish I’d had the money at the time to buy all the other stuff he did for us.

    He’s a wonderful artist and maybe even a better guy. Very nice writeup that sums up much of what is great about his work.

  4. Kelly Duffie

    Usually when i see a blog i read through it and move on, however yours was trully a wonderful one, i thought i would take the time to give you thanks for such a great blog post.

  5. russell pritchard

    I am the proud owner of the last painting shown above, the small figure walking into the body of water. I have bought this painting probably in 2000, when hiroshi had a show at bucheon gallery in san francisco. the painting touches me as much today as when I first saw it….


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