Sanctuary at Western Sunset

Media - 2008.38 - SAAM-2008.38_1 - 70131
Copied Tom Nakashima, Sanctuary at Western Sunset, 1992, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Gail and John Enns, 2008.38

Artwork Details

Title
Sanctuary at Western Sunset
Date
1992
Location
Not on view
Dimensions
101 12120 38 in. (257.9305.9 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Gail and John Enns
Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
Classifications
Highlights
Keywords
  • Architecture Exterior
Object Number
2008.38

Artwork Description

Tom Nakashima visited Japan for the first time in 1988, inspiring the third generation Japanese American to take a deeper look into his heritage. As a form of meditation, painting is a way he explores his relationship with Eastern and Western cultures, conveyed through autobiographical imagery and a fluid use of symbols. A large chapel dominates the scene in Sanctuary at Western Sunset. It is a safe haven, a place of refuge inspired by two of Giotto's fourteenth-century frescos in the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy. For Nakashima, the structure serves as a path to Japan and a visual representation of safety across cultures. A translucent fish, a self-portrait of the artist, approaches the threshold of the chapel as if embarking on a journey across the sea. Painted in thick, gestural brushstrokes, the fish casts a solid shadow as the sun sets over the mountainous horizon.

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