Photos and text by Robert Kokenyesi, Ceramic artist at Beachfront Pottery, Godfrey, IL USA.
This is the second blog in the “Michi” exhibit series.
On March 17 2016 I visited a ceramic art exhibit in the Western part of Missouri. In the town of Warrensburg, in the University of Central Missouri’s Gallery of Art & Design a number of Japanese American ceramic artist showed their latest creations. The exhibit was titled “Michi”; the subtitle of the exhibit was “Distinctive Paths, Shared Affinity”. While the artistic philosophies, the clay-forming and glazing techniques, the subject matters, the decorative or utilitarian nature of the pieces varied tremendously among the participating artists, there was a unifying circumstance among the artists. They were working in the United States, but because of being born in Japan, or because of being brought up in Japanese families in the US, they were all affected by Japanese culture. This cultural influence by traditional Japanese art is strikingly clear in some cases; other ventured far from that influence. The exhibit travels throughout the United States as described here: http://www.michiexhibition.com/traveling-schedule/
This artist was born and raised in Japan, and works in Fullerton, California. He embraces the aspect of Western cultures that encourages experimentation, and allows the overlapping interpretation of old traditions and contemporary influences. His piece is a interpretation of the haniwa figure, which is “a representation of a culture, but removed from the context of it’s meaning and identity. The haniwa figures were used frequently in the 3rd-6th centuries in Japan. The clay figures were placed on the burial mound, perhaps as markers of the boundary of the graves. Old edicts confirm that the use of clay figurines was encouraged as to replace human sacrifice at the funerals. The shape of the haniwa can be human-like, but animals and tools were also fashioned.
For him this situation is a manifestation of a personal duality of traditions in a context of global influences. Here http://www.nobuhitonishigawara.com/home.html you can find his other works that include very non-traditional pieces.
This artist was born in Japan, and currently works in Morgantown West Virginia. In his sculptural works he expresses the dichotomy of his Japanese heritage, and his Alaskan upbringing. One is the wabi-sabi style of raw sculptural elements, like the coral reef-like base of the sculptures; the other is the ying-yang style that shows the natural beauty and frailty of the floral objects. Shoji didn’t bring any of his vessels to the exhibit; on his website http://shojisatake.com/home.html you can check out the wabi-sabi style dominating.
This artist was raised in the US, and works in Elkton, Oregon. In his studio Hiroshi follows the traditional Japanese way of life, and pottery making, including the use of the wood-fired kiln. He describes his style as the “shibui”; where a piece comes with a profound quiet feeling suggesting depth, simplicity and purity. To me his work on this exhibit represents the wabi-sabi look. This the look where part of the beauty is in the imperfection and asymmetry of the piece. An earthy wholesomeness dominates.
This artist was raised in Japan, and currently works in Washington Pennsylvania. Her works at this exhibit are inspired by the power of the good and bad dreams. As she states in her statement, she started making these pieces a few months before the exhibit. The pieces are curious cultural artifacts in eastern Asian cultures; they are ceramic pillows that were used by the well-off members of the society. These pillows were cool during sleep, and they supported the neck in a way that didn’t mess up the sleeping person’s elaborate hairdo.
The pieces are midrange porcelain with underglaze painings. On her website, http://www.yokosekinobove.com/ she describes several glaze recipes. Here the underglaze creates a black (or to my eyes more like very dark blue) background. Her other works (not included in this exhibit) show a great variety of styles and approaches.