Anyone who has lost his home to a climate of fear has a deep understanding of mankind’s capability for blind betrayal. The father of artist Judy Shintani was an American teenager when he and his family were interned at Tule Lake Incarceration Camp during WWII. Click here to read more.
It started as a chair for my mother who is no longer on earth. I thought she would have liked this view on a hill overlooking the ocean. I wished she were still here to talk to. I have new questions for her, ones I wasn’t pondering before. I have new understandings I didn’t have before. I always wanted us to be peers, to be able to speak woman to woman. Now it can only happen between worlds.
May this seat hold me between heaven and earth as I face new challenges. May the earth and sky be my allies. May I have conversations with my mother as I look out to the infinite sea.
If you’re a woman and have ever gone in for a gynecological exam you will recognize this medical tool called a speculum. I’ve had these devices for a few years, waiting for the creative inspiration to hit me so I could include them in an art piece. Every time I took them out and showed them to my women friends, every one of them squealed and asked me to put them away. Having a cold stainless steel speculum inserted into one’s vagina is not the most pleasant activity.
Yet we women in first world countries are fortunate to have access to gynecological care. In many 3rd world countries pap smears (collecting cells for cancer testing) do not happen because there are not enough qualified technicians to do them. In the poorest countries, many women have horrible child-birth injuries called fistulas, often due to being young mothers. Most likely these women do not have the choice to have birth control either.
The wrapping of the speculum in silk is my way of honoring these medical tools and our ability to get reproductive care.
Massive graveyards of crustations, a shell collectors paradise; itty bitty frogs freeze like little pebbles when they think you’re looking and then continue their leap crossing where a creek meets the ocean; a lone pelican dives with precision while the morning sun places hide and seek with the clouds, and warm waves crash on soft white sand. Oh look! now a pelican friend joins in the feasting. In the background my ears pick up birds and bugs that chirp, caw, rattle, and sing different tunes than on my northern Pacific coastside.
An atmospheric space in-between worlds is glimpsed in this installation. Fragments of sound from crickets, voices of monks and Japanese instruments envelope Japanese lanterns, womanly silhouettes and floating deteriorating kimonos. Obake Yashiki or Ghost House, is a dwelling place of spirits that continue to haunt us. They cannot find their peaceful resting place due to tragic occurrences during their lifetimes. The exhibition calls attention to women around the world whose lives have been taken due to earthly disasters and violent human interaction. We honor the spirits who are trapped between life and death in hopes they may find peace and resolution.
At our closing we were graced with the awesome Butoh dancers, Hiroko and koichi Tamano, who brought Butoh performance to the United States in the ’70s. They performed with their student troupe Earth Child. Their amazing interpretation of our installation created a whole new way of experiencing the space. Time stood still as they took command of the gallery and we all watch, mesmerized.
I have to say it was a dream come true for me to see my kimonos dancing with the Butoh performers and to have the kimono flowers and leaves thrown in the air, releasing them from their altars. I had to smile when I saw people picking up the pieces as souvenirs.
“Working lighter on the land means being fragile and vulnerable. For that reason, my favorite work here hangs almost unnoticed from fir branches near a picnic area facing the bay. Judy Shintani‘s gently ringing Ancestor Chimes are partly narrative, with text on oyster shell….”, writesBrian Miller
It’s great to get some press and I’m especially pleased that a photo from my Ancestor Chimes and positive feedback on the installation is in the Seattle Weekly. Carkeek Park has been a challenging venue for many of the artists and my heart goes out to them. Please read the review of the Rootbound Heaven and Earth Exhibition below: