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Fong's Table, 2009, Wabi Sabi piece, Mixed Media
Fong's Table, 2009
Wabi Sabi Piece, Mixed Media

ORIGINAL NFS, In Artist's Collection
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What Is Wabi Sabi Art?


Wabi Sabi art is a philosophy of aesthetics, 'what is beautiful', but not in black and white terms.  It's in more nuanced terms.  When we look at a cherry tree in full bloom, no one denies that it is beautiful. However, a cherry tree that has lost all of its blossoms but one has a certain beauty, a poignancy, a revelation about life that sets it apart from the standard definition of beauty.  A full moon is beautiful to behold, but a waning moon two days after being full has a slightly asymmetrical, less than (what is defined as) perfect look, but again it says something about the human condition like the cherry blossom tree that has lost all of its blossoms but one.  A new piece of metal shines with strength and practicality.  However, that same piece of metal, ragged on the edges, pitted and rusty exhibits a beauty that can only come from time and exposure to the elements.  Wabi Sabi is a 'lust for rust'.  A lust for what is not perfect in conventional eyes.  Wabi Sabi opens a person's eyes to look at the world around them, so that what was not seen before is now seen, not as junk, but as weathered beauty.  Elegant junk.  Sophisticated rust.



Fong's Table, 2009, Wabi Sabi piece

There's a children's story, The Velveteen Rabbit, that is a great example of Wabi Sabi.  It's about a little, stuffed rabbit that is hugged, fondled, and loved by a child for many years.  Missing a button eye, one ear all raggedy.  The velvet rubbed smooth.  If you were to sit that little stuffed rabbit next to a brand new rabbit, you tell me which one is more beautiful. 

Morphology of a Palm, 2018 Unfinished Wabi Sabi piece

Morphology of a Palm, 2018 Unfinished

Wabi Sabi Piece, Mixed Media

White Buffalo, 2017 Unfinished Wabi Sabi art
White Buffalo, 2017 Unfinished
Wabi Sabi Piece, Mixed Media


Wabi Sabi art can be utilitarian or strictly aesthetic, i.e. a table or a wall hanging.  It has many facets revolving around one basic idea.  My expression of Wabi Sabi is that I collect pieces of weathered wood,  rusty barbed wire, discarded computer parts that have rusted, discarded metal from old appliances like washing machines used for target practice and shot up with holes.  At the same time juxtaposing this kind of material with something that is still new and shiny like a glossy tile or a crystal, natural or faceted.  Predominantly my Wabi Sabi art only uses something fresh and new as an accent.


My first major piece of Wabi Sabi art is called 'The Crux'.  See images of this below.  It is 3' wide and 5' high of a cross-like structure to remind me of Christ's crucifixion.  I used old weathered 2x4's for the basic cross; a shot up piece of metal for the body; a rusty bottom of a toaster or some appliance for the head; rusty barbed wire for the Crown of Thorns; and a piece of flood-plain, desert drift wood for a leg that looks like a large lamb's leg.  


Sometimes I have an idea of what I want the Wabi Sabi piece to express and materials come together to form a whole, discarded useless material transformed into elegance through an organic, alchemical process.  Or I have nothing in mind but to take pieces and join them together finding meaning along the way.   For more than 40 years, my predominant direction has been as a painter applying paint to a flat surface, seeking depth in two-dimensions.  Making Wabi Sabi art as an adjunct, no pun intended, allows that part of me that wants to feel and work with the stand-alone three dimensional reality of objects, feeding the piece of me that might want to sculpt something.  I sculpt in pieces of junk.  A Deacon once said to me, "God don't make no junk".  When this same Deacon saw The Crux in a show, she said, "It is elegant. The sum is elegant, but the parts are not."  Wabi Sabi is a great example that there is "no junk" and Wabi Sabi art is an even greater example that the sum is even greater than the parts.  


                                                                                                                                   Victor Steven Rosenberg

                                                                                                                                   Winter 2018

VSR's First Wabi Sabi Piece

The Crux, 2008, Wabi Sabi art

The Crux, 2008

24" X 70" Mixed Media

ORIGINAL NFS, In the Artist's Collection

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Also See Painted Furniture & Wabi Sabi Art

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Wabi Sabi Art

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