Sue Shrode and Eastern Leanings

In several important ways, the conservation of Eastern Leanings preserves not only Eastman’s contribution to our Goldman-Kuenz Sculpture Park, but also the legacy of Mt. Vernon native Marejon Sue Shrode.

As part of Cedarhurst’s Kimball’s Habitat conservation initiative, we are painting Eastern Leanings. We have a new concrete platform to place it on and keep it out of water. The paint color, a dark blue, was chosen based on some of Eastman’s panel having a similar color.

John Patrick “Rico” Eastman (1952-2012) created Eastern Leanings in 2000. Eastman was known for his architectural abstractions made form interlocking sheets of steel. A graduate of Rhode Island School of Design and Arizona State University, Eastman was an accomplished metalsmith. Eastman was also a musician who played in several bands. His work is found today in many collections.

Eastern Leanings was a favorite sculpture of Cedarhurst benefactor Sue Shrode (1924-2017) who gifted the sculpture to Cedarhurst in 2009.

Sue Shrode’s fondness for Eastern Leanings reaches back to her days in Santa Monica where as a young clay phenom, she was surrounded by Southern California rich in Asian American culture. Sue had met and worked with the Japanese master ceramic artist Shoji Hamada. Sue and her friend Jane Heald were chosen by Bernard Leach to be Hamada’s assistants in the 1952 workshop at Mills College in Oakland, California. One can see the influence in her art.

Sue created a photographic digital collage in 2003 that featured the entire sculpture of Eastern Leanings. Prominent is the signature upturned roof of Chinese/Japanese architecture. Sue puzzled together several layers of Asian images. In the background is what appears to be a late Shang Chinese bronze vessel. On the left side of the sculpture Sue placed an image of the artist Sharaku’s 1794 woodblock print, Otani, a Kabuki actor. On the right side’s curving wall, Shrode skillfully counterpoised an image of a woman reading in Utamaro’s 18th c. woodblock, Flower Fan. Below the sculpture, a curious pair of as yet unidentified braided cords loop in symmetry. Most haunting of all is the mysterious and ghostly image of a modern day Guy Fawkes mask– a contemporary symbol of social protest. Sue’s title “shogun” refers to the military governor and de facto ruler in feudal Japan.

What, blog readers, are we to make of this thoughtful work of art by the most important artist to ever come from Mount Vernon?