Photos and text by Robert Kokenyesi, Ceramic Artist at Beachfront Pottery, Godfrey, IL USA
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 is the entrance to the gallery on the campus of University of Central Missouri .
I drove almost four hours to get tot he gallery, but the visual of the exhibit, and the unique atmosphere created by the pieces was all worth it. Here I describe the first four of the artists.
Keisuke Mizuno’s pieces had a very special effect on me, because of the minimal simplicity in shape and color. He writes on the Michi website that he never feels like creating a in the Japanese tradition until others point that influence out to him. He sees the the tradition of “sensitivity of expression”, and the “fine craftmanship” as elements he has carried over into his works. He works at St. Could University in Minnesota,and his current work is polar opposite to the colorful, floral, elaborately formed pieces he created a few years back. Most recent work from him explores the process of “light changing to shadow”. As you can observe on the two images below, he uses simple geometric forms that are slipcast ceramics, and appear unglazed. On the dark background of the supporting material he adds veil thin clay layers.
Mika Negishi-Laidlaw was born and raised in Kobe, Japan, and currently works in Minnesota State College. The exhibited ceramic pieces (pictured below) are grouped appearances of stylized hand-shaped forms. The material is slip-cast porcelain with glaze or some other covering. Her website shows her ability to create surprising forms and arrangements http://mikanegishilaidlaw.com/ In her statement she writes that her current work is reflection of her contemplation of the past with whom she seems to connect best on her trips to Japan. The pieces arranged from hands are a reflection on the role of ancient generations : “relay of lives that has been passed on for generations to reach my turn”.
The pieces of Hiroe Hanazono represents a very utilitarian, functional focus, and a very simple monochrome finish. Hiroe was born in Japan, currently lives and work in Philadelphia. She states that she has always loved food, and that the food has to please the visual senses as much as the taste buds. She intends with her pieces to create a minimalist design that allows the color and texture of food to come to the fore. Her works are the reflection of modern industrial design and architecture. She carves the “shapes that enhance appetite” into wood, creates a plaster mold around it, and the slipcasts the porcelain clay. Some of her other works are here: http://www.mudfire.com/hiroe-hanazono-ceramics.htm
Yoshi Fuji brought very strikingly jade-colored pieces to the exhibit. He was born in Japan, and currently works at Baltimore Clayworks in Baltimore, MD. He states that he maintains cultural tradition by using translucent glazes on porcelain. Also, he remembers the meal times in Japan where the observer of the ceramics is also the end-user. The ceramics used for meal time must have elegance and beauty. The pieces in this exhibit (sse them below) are part of the seasonal expression (cherry blossom) that may enhance the meals. Some of his other pieces are here: http://www.yoshifujii.com/gallery.php