October 31, 2010

Halloween Blog, or Why Chinese Bats are Cute

When I first started my series of miniature paintings, “Twenty-six Days of the Bat” I began by reviewing two sources: images of bats on the internet and my own small collection of Chinese embroidery bats. People generally have mixed feelings about bats. They are those scarey little things of Halloween and vampire lore. But in China bats have always been depicted as a beautiful and auspicious animal. In large part this is due to the fact that the word for bat, fu, also happens to be a synonym for the words for good fortune and prosperity. Hence, a bat will bring good tidings.

After looking at images of bats more carefully, I realized that there is a second reason why Asian bats are “okay” but western ones are scarey. Bats can be broadly divided into two distinct groups, the megachiroptera and the microchiroptera, or megabats and microbats for short. The microbats are more familiar to us in the west and generally have faces with a squished in spade- like nose, little eyes, pointed teeth, and long ears. Conversely, the megabats are large and have a face like a little terrier dog and a look that is somewhat endearing. They are also known as Fruit Bats or Flying Foxes These Flying Fox bats are the ones native to Asia and are about as innocuous looking as puppies with wings. How could they not be the subjects, then, of paintings on vases and embroidered garments made with great love and care?

My bat paintings are half on the megabat side and half on the microbat side. The microbat group were painted naturalistically and the megabats were painted in the stylistic forms and colors of folk art. Happy Halloween!

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