Light and honor the dark season with artmaking

 Light and honor the dark season with artmaking

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The living and the dead join together

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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.

This was the statement for Obake Yashiki (Ghost House), A multi-media installation by Amar Chaudhary, Priscilla Otani, and Judy Shintani at Arc Gallery in San Francisco.

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.

Shintani’s Ancestor Chimes featured in Seattle Weekly

“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….”, writes Brian 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:

http://www.seattleweekly.com/2012-08-22/arts/visual-arts-a-carkeek-park-art-safari/

New cutting

New cutting

It sometimes takes me a while to make the first cut into a kimono, but once I start, the piece takes on a life on its own, transforming and releasing what it once held.

To see some of the finished deconstructed kimonos click here.

Forest books mushroom

Image

Image @ T. Folkerts

Instead of going into landfill, why not take once loved books and make them into walls?
The decaying pages make homes for mushrooms and insects and moss. Who knows, maybe mice and birds may enjoy the material too. Read more about this art installation by clicking here.

Many steps and helpers to create Ancestor Chimes land art

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Photos by MalPina Chan and Judy Shintani

I’m always interested in the back story of how a piece is developed and created, so I’m going to talk about the process of making my Ancestor Chimes installation.

Concepting

The theme of the Center of Contemporary Seattle exhibition: Rootbound, Heaven and Earth, drew me in since a lot of my work is about family history, stories, and culture. Because my father’s family settled in the Puget Sound area and raised oysters, I thought that my work could tie into this show nicely. I created and photographed a prototype and hung them in a tree near my studio. I uploaded the photo and a write-up of my idea for the submission. It was accepted and I had a few weeks to get the piece completed and installed in Carkeek Park in Seattle.

My artist statement
My father’s family settled here in America and raised oysters in the Puget Sound. I honor these family members, some of whom have passed on. On the oyster shells you will find stories about their time here. Some of the ink may fade over time just as memories do. The tree is a symbol of the connection between heaven and earth, so it is holds up my family’s tales. The shells dangle and move and our legacy travels to reach ancestors via the wind. I imagine they are pleased to be remembered in this beautiful place they once inhabited.

Gathering Materials
The Ancestor Chimes is made primarily of oyster shells. This is not a new media for me. I have used them in performances and in assemblages. They represent my father’s family, hope, and nostalgia. They also represent loss and secrets. I see the oyster as a symbol of the deep feminine.

The gathering of the materials I’m using in a piece is done with a lot of intention and caring. I want to be conscious of what is used, how it is used and handled, because this infuses my work with energy.

Photo by A. Meyer

I originally wanted to create the piece using Washington oyster shells. Due to the short creation time, I came up with a different solution. My partner and I drove to Drakes Bay Oyster Farm near Pt Reyes. This was a family road trip destination when I was a child. There they have mountains of oyster shells I could pick from. I looked for flat, clean ones with mostly white surfaces to write on. I had to carefully select shells of the right thickness for drilling.

In the best circumstances I would have liked to have ingested all the oysters to create the piece. I like the process of sharing the delicacy with friends and family – in that way honoring community and the oysters. I symbolically was able to add some shells from oysters that were eaten by my partner and I at the Pt Reyes Station House Cafe. I also gathered friends and family in Seattle at Chinook’s to help me eat some oysters so I had some Washington shells to use my installation. That was a very special intersection of family, old friends, and new friends.

Other materials gathered:
– Brass wire that will hold up best in the weather and over 4 months.
– Bells gifted to me that had been hanging outside on my studio door for years.
– Florist wire covered by rope found at Alena Jean’s Nursery  a few blocks from my studio.
– Matte acrylic medium
-Metallic acrylic paint
– Sharpe metallic paint pen
– Tools: drill, wire cutters, brushes

The Making
I wrote out the stories before hand on paper and then figured out how many shells I needed and how many chimes I would create. It came out to seven strands of chimes and I thought that was an auspicious number.

I assembled about half of the chimes in my Half Moon Bay, California studio. I cleaned, drilled, and wrote family stories on shells and then used a brass wire to connect the chime parts. I used a jewelry method of wire connection, incorporating a way for the shells to swivel and turn with the wind and make it easier for viewers to read the shells.

COCA provided me with studio space at their Georgetown gallery so I could add in the Washington shells from the Chinook gathering.  I went through the process of cleaning, drilling, writing, wiring, and adding a coat of matte acrylic medium to protect the writing.

I did a final couple of hours of wiring in Suze Woolf’s studio. A fellow Rootbound artist, she was also kind enough to provide me lodging while I was in Seattle for three nights.

Scouting Location
Upon arriving in Seattle from California, I went with David Francis the curator for the exhibition, to see the spot he selected for my installation. My placement criteria: near the Sound and a tree to hang the chimes so that they could be seen and read by viewers.

We hiked up the North trail path that bordered the sound and could not find a tree that had low enough or sturdy enough branches for the installation. As we walked back towards the picnic area, David mentioned a spot near the entrance of the trail as a possibility, only thing was that it had a chain link fence with barbed wire. Bingo! Part of my family story was that they had to leave the area due to the Japanese American incarceration. This was the perfect location to support the bittersweet side of the ancestor story.

Installing
I was fortunate enough to hook up with fellow JFKU alumni and dear friend Leah Libow who helped me install the Ancestor Chimes. Borrowing a raincoat from Suze’s daughter Boo, we trudged out to the park in the rain wearing boots and hats. This was not just a light rain, there were big drops coming down. I stood on the very top of little stepladder on uneven muddy ground holding up strands of chimes, trying to figure out which branches to hang them on and how high. Some branches we could reach, others we threw the rope wire over the branch. This all took about 2 hours and we were pretty wet, but exhilarated by the conclusion of the installation.

On Display
The Ancestor Chimes are on display in the Land Art Exhibition at Carkeek Park until October 31, 2012. I’m lucky that so many of my Washington friends have gone to see it and also many California friends are vacationing in the area and are checking it out too. Here is the link to find out more and download a map. http://www.cocaseattle.org/h+e/ If you click on the photos on the map you can find out more about each piece. I’m number 8.

Thanks
I’ve had a lot of support in making this installation happen and I want to thank: COCA Seattle, David Francis, Ray C. Freeman III, Suze Woolf, Ander Meyer, Alena Whiting Barragan, Judith van Praag, Linda Ando, Leah Libow, Janice Ono, Damon Ono, Stacy Ono Avara, MalPina Chan, June Sekiguchi, Melanie Corey-Ferrini.

Mandala at the end of the world

Well I’m finally getting around to posting about our time in Morocco earlier this year. We journeyed to the small town of M’Hamid – a ten-hour bus trip south of Marrakech near the West Sahara and Algerian border. As we traveled the last 45 minutes on a one lane, perfect, asphalt strip to the very end, I wondered what lay ahead. It felt like the end of the world.

We came here to attend the International Nomad Festival. It wasn’t widely publicized. I found it by googling what was going to be happening Morocco during our time there.

We stayed at Hotel Kasbah Sahara Services . It had hot water and was where the organizers of the International Nomad Festival were staying.

We wandered the small town and ran into many young “Blue Men” who were just the day before in Western clothes sitting on the bus next to us. I never had so many people saw “konichiwa” (hello in Japanese) to me in my life! The locals know many languages.

What struck me was the beautiful expanse of the desert, and also all the trash that was buried in the sand and the brightly colored plastic bags blowing around like tumbleweeds.

I felt inspired to make a land installation. I created the Sahara Mandala out of trash and desert stones. It is about 8 feet in diameter and honors the land and the four directions. My iPhone compass came in handy to set it correctly,

It wasn’t very pleasant to build it without gloves or rakes, but it made me feel at one with the people and the desert.

I purposely installed the mandala outside the elementary school so the kids could see it. I hope it will inspire them to think about trash and art in a different way. A few kids came over to talk with me about it. I videotaped their thoughts and will have to the French translated.

Cutting away

I’ve become a cutting fiend over the last few weeks. Using small scissors, I’m removing the flowers printed on an old silk kimono. It is a strange and satisfying feeling. So many emotions and thoughts float through my brain as I continue with my obsession.

This all started as a piece about the loss of my ancestors and my disconnection with my culture. Now it has become much more and the messages keep unfolding.

Sometimes I feel like the crane woman who plucked her feathers in the night to weave them into wondrous fabric, but instead of making something, I am taking it apart.

Other times I can’t help but think about the Yoko Ono performance. She presented herself to an audience to cut away pieces of her garment as she wore it.

My goal is to have four deconstructed kimonos completed for a show at Enso Gallery in Half Moon Bay in August…I’ve got a lot of work to do!

If you would like to find out about the first deconstructed kimono click here.