Eternity—Resting Place of Lafcadio Hearn
Masaaki Noda’s Sculptures Inspired by Lafcadio Hearn
The international artist Masaaki Noda was born in Fukuyama, Hiroshima, in 1949, graduated from the Osaka University of Arts in 1972, and moved to New York City, in 1977. For over four decades since then, he has built his reputation as a New York-based printmaker, painter, and, since the late 1980s, as a sculptor. Noda created his first public-art sculpture at the crossroads of national highways in his hometown, Fukuyama, in 2000. Since then, his works have appeared in more than twenty places—among them, Greece, China (Shenzhen), New York, Osaka, Fukuyama, and Hiroshima.
In 2009, Noda made his first sculpture inspired by Patrick Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904)—better known in Japan by the Japanese name he adopted, Koizumi Yakumo. The first sculpture was donated by Noda to The American College of Greece, Athens, in 2009; his second is by Lake Shinji, Matsue, in 2010; and his third, in 2014, was installed in Lefkada, where Hearn was born. This September, Noda will erect his fourth, in Shinjuku City Koizumi Yakumo Memorial Park in Shinjuku, Tokyo, where Hearn died. The Memorial Park was established in 1989 when Shinjuku and Lefkada, Greece, became sister cities.
Noda was moved to make something to commemorate Lafcadio Hearn when he visited Lefkada Island, Greece, with the New York-based Greek art dealer Takis Efstathiou in 1995. Efstathiou introduced Hiro Gallery and Noda to the Greek American artist Theodoros Stamos (1922-1997). Stamos was a Greek American painter, the youngest of the Abstract Expressionists who illuminated American art in the years following the Second World War. He was born in Manhattan and summered in Lefkada, Greece, where Stamos’s father was from. Stamos was deeply interested in Oriental art and had great respect for Hearn. Hiro agreed to mount an exhibition for Stamos in Japan. By listening to Stamos and the people in Lefkada, Noda redoubled his interest in Hearn.
The following year, Noda and Efstathiou, visited Matsue, a city where Hearn taught English the year he arrived in Japan and married Koizumi Setsu. There Noda and Efstathiou met Hearn’s great-grandson Koizumi Bon, currently the director of the Koizumi Yakumo Memorial Museum and professor emeritus of Shimane Junior College. In a short while Noda cultivated friendships with a number of those involved with Lafcadio Hearn, and for the next two decades, mainly through the guidance of Koizumi Bon and his wife, Shōko, as well as that of Efstathiou, Noda went on to read many of Hearn’s writings—novels, short stories, poems, travelogues, and retellings—to pursue Hearn’s “glimpses of unfamiliar Japan” to form an image of what Hearn sought.
The first result of his effort was the sculpture, “The Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn,” for The American College of Greece in Athens in 2009, arranged by Efstathiou. In it Noda tried to express a combination of the pantheism of ancient Greece—Hearn’s mother was a Greek, Rosa Antoniou Kassimatis—and the Celtic culture of Ireland—his father was an Irishman, Charles Bush Hearn.
In 2010, Noda made a sister model of “Lafcadio Hearn’s Open Mind” to go with an exhibition in the donjon of Matsue Castle to commemorate “the 120th Anniversary of Koizumi Yakumo’s Arrival in Matsue.” It was erected beside Lake Shinji, which dominates Matsue. Reflecting Mr. and Mrs. Koizumi Bon’s story that Hearn had enjoyed the sunset over the brackish lake, Noda had his sculpture set up at a spot where the sun would set in its “heart.” Since then, it has become one of the places where tourists visit in Matsue.
In 2014, Noda’s third work inspired by Hearn, “Lafcadio Hearn—Odyssey of an Open Mind,” was for Lefkada Cultural Center, again with the assistance of Efstathiou. It was to commemorate the 110th anniversary of Lafcadio Hearn’s death. In this work, Noda tried to express the spirit of co-existence that Hearn sought in the East and the West. Odyssey, Homer’s epic, describes the difficult misadventures that Odysseus had to go through for ten years before returning to his wife, Penelope.
“Eternity—Resting Place of Lafcadio Hearn,” the sculpture erected September 21, 2019, in Shinjuku City Koizumi Yakumo Memorial Park, is where Noda reached out to the memory of Hearn with his art. As Noda explains, the wings of the sculpture that spread right and left symbolize the different cultures of the East and the West that Hearn encompassed, with the bird flying down from the sky representing Hearn’s wandering spirit. Hearn, born in Greece and nurtured in Ireland, moved to the United States at age nineteen to become a reporter and lived in Cincinnati and New Orleans. While there he was dispatched to Martinique, an island in the West Indies, for two years, before going to Japan in 1890.
Through his series of four sculptures—in Athens, Matsue, Lefkada, and Shinjuku—Noda wanted to project a literary and artistic image of Lafcadio Hearn as a man of disparate cultures for the future and his samsara. All the sculptures were donated by Noda and his supporters.
Noda’s sculpture in Shinjuku is placed in such a way as to enable a viewer to look at the existing bust of Lafcadio Hearn through the heart shape.
This work, which is 2.8 meters high, was a result of the suggestion of the Greek ambassador to Tokyo, which Shinjuku Ward gladly accepted.
Katsunobu Ōmae Curator, Fukuyama Museum of Art
Upon Installing Another Sculpture Inspired by Greece and Lafcadio Hearn —In Gratitude—In installing another sculpture inspired by Lafcadio Hearn, I wish to express my deep gratitude to all the institutions, manufacturers, and the supporters that have made it possible for me to realize these works.
Masaaki Noda—Translated into English by Hiroaki Sato Wiki Page for Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo)
http://yakumokai.orgLafcadio Hearn Society Website