Photos and text by Robert Kokenyesi, Ceramic Artist at Beachfront Pottery, Godfrey, IL USA
This is the fourth 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 artists ventured far from that influence. The exhibit travels throughout the United States as described here: http://www.michiexhibition.com/traveling-schedule/
He was born in Hawaii, and currently works in San Antonio, Texas. Ryan Takaba represented his body of work with one of his new projects: “49 to a new”. Ryan is exploring the question of what is the difference between a habit and a ritual. According to Buddhist practice, the soul of a dead person drifts in a dark space finding a new location every seven days. The soul then on the 49th day find its final resting place.
At his very informative web site, www.ryantakaba.com/, he shows the pictures of this piece as it changes every seven day, including the stages where the individual ceramic pieces are moved away from each other, and have a mums flower inserted into them; flowers in all of them by the 49th day. He also shows other pieces around this theme, as well as other, very different looking pieces.
She was born in Japan, and currently lives in Alfred, New York. When you check out her web site, http://www.shokoteruyama.com/, you’ll see the very finely decorated earthenware vases or dishes where she applies an inspired set of sgraffito leaves, flowers and vines.
She states that her inspiration derives from richly decorated Shinto shrines, especially the shrine called Nikko Toshogu, which is designated as UNESCO World heritage site. At the shrine’s web site, http://www.toshogu.jp/english/shrine/, you can get an idea of what Shoku is talking about; very elaborate and detailed carvings (built in 1617).
She currently works at Northfield, Minnesota. In her statement she writes: “I create botanical installations that reflect on the relationships between humans and the natural world. Flowers and plants have a defined lifespan: they grow, bloom, fade, and decompose. I am interested in the contrast between the transience of nature and beauty on the one hand, and the stability and permanence of fired ceramics on the other. I create botanical installations that reflect on the relationships between humans and the natural world. Flowers and plants have a defined lifespan: they grow, bloom, fade, and decompose. I am interested in the contrast between the transience of nature and beauty on the one hand, and the stability and permanence of fired ceramics on the other.”
The body of work she brought to the Michi exhibit has special inspiration: her maternal grandmother likes violets, while her paternal grandmother liked irises. She recalls her grandma trying to grow irises in her New Mexico home, and failing most of the time. These works are intended to create a permanent presence for these flowers her grandmother couldn’t grow.
My photos don’t quite do justice to the striking visuals of her pieces. On a dark(er) background the pale grey/white porcelain pieces present an eerie, otherworldly quality. Her other types of works are at julianeshibata.com/