The whimsical illustrations by Japanese artist Sae Tachimori are clever curiosities that use a children’s book charm to explore the complex issue of the East constructing new identity through fantasies of the West, as well as global nostalgia for the early 20th century. The focal point in “Journey” is a standing bear, whose face contorts into a sharp grimace as he cradles a clock, presenting to the viewer the reality of lost time. In addition to a myriad of decorative elements, several vintage suitcases and a host of imaginative creatures, two women dressed in bohemian-chic clothing occupy the middle ground. The composition is rendered in an Art Nouveau palette of muted blues and pinks. However, one of the women is drawn in black and white with golden hair. She stands on a ladder and reaches inside a bucket of paintbrushes. Perhaps she represents the contemporary woman painting her future and her identity, while the bears yearn for a more traditional past.
Animals, real and imaginative, play a central and symbolic role in Tachimori’s artworks. フェレット夫人 (Mrs. Ferret) features a woman holding a pocketwatch, dressed in a fabulous fur coat whose collar becomes a slinking blend of playful ferrets. Presented alongside a golden bonsai tree, the animals, which in the early 2000s became as trendy in Japan as the chihuahua in LA, set the context distinctively in Japan, and offers commentary on American lifestyle influences in the East.