5 highlights of Seattle Art Museum’s tremendous new Hokusai exhibit

Gemma Wilson for Seattle Times

“Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” 

Just as compelling as the physical migration of ideas is witnessing them filter, as if by osmosis, through an artist’s brain. In the gallery’s far corner, through a room dedicated to ghosts and monsters, hangs Judith Schaechter’s grotesque “Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife” (2004). Repulsive and compelling in equal measure, the print borrows from both Hokusai’s erotic print of a woman in sexual ecstasy with octopi (also known as “Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife”), and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.”

The figure’s eerie, distressed face, simultaneously melting and swollen, bears a striking resemblance to the Hokusai print, hanging in the adjacent room, “The Ghost of Oiwa.” 

When Kendall DeBoer, curatorial assistant in the MFA Boston’s Department of Contemporary Art, mentioned this similarity to Schaechter, the Philadelphia-based artist expressed her surprise. “She said, ‘I wasn’t thinking about it, but I love that print and I look at it constantly,’” DeBoer recalled in an interview. For the curator, that’s one of this show’s most delicious, intriguing aspects. “Sometimes we take things into us and we put them back out into the world without even being conscious of it.”   

October 18, 2023