Altered cultural and everyday objects express liminality

At the reception, I had a few people want to have access to my artist statement,
so I decided to post it here.

photo by Susan Friedman

I dedicate this exhibition, “In Liminal Space”
at Enso Art Gallery 
to my mother Doris Shintani,
and to all beings in the midst of transformation

Liminality: “…in-between situations and conditions that are characterized by
the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies, and uncertainty
 regarding the continuity of tradition and future outcomes.” ~ Arnold van Gennep 

I alter cultural and everyday objects to construct stories to reflect our current times and to offer space to ponder and question. These installations are an expression of the ongoing process of destruction and creation.

In Japan, when a woman puts on a kimono it becomes part of her body. Though the kimono appears to be a flowing and simple gown, the layers that bind the woman’s breasts and the rest of her body makes for a very constricting uniform. Breathing is difficult and only small steps may be taken. The restrictive nature of wearing of it is thought to instill tranquility and peacefulness.

As I cut away the red flowers and leaves from the ivory kimono, I felt somewhat uncomfortable. I am destroying a symbol of my Japanese culture. I wonder, who was the woman who wore it? What was her life like?

I cut out the black flower pattern from this used kimono that was gifted to me.

photo by Susan Friedman

The cutting becomes a meditation. I feel a connection to the larger community of women who create and mend clothing. However, I was doing it in reverse…I was taking it apart.

My alterations reflect the loosening connection to my ancestry and culture, and the kimono is reduced to a skeleton, a web. The garment still maintains its elegant and simple structure even after deconstruction. I contemplate making more breathing space in my life to support a simple, healthy, and creative life path.

The kimono installation became a premonition of the Japanese devastation that was yet to come. The deconstructed garments represent not only the personal space but also the liminal space where the transformation of tradition, culture, and structure takes place.

This is the first kimono I cut up. I meditated on the loss of connection with my ancestors and culture

photo by Susan Friedman

The altered umbrellas question our concept of safety and shelter in a world of seemingly unending disasters. I long for an uncomplicated time when holding something over our heads protected us from what fell out of the sky.

The “Pearls Left Behind” installation created out of pizza rounds, conveys the connection of two war times – America’s war with Japan in the 1940’s and the current Iraqi wartime. Both of these events resulted in racial profiling, prejudice, deception, and death. Does history repeat or does it simply rhyme?

The “Vision Quest” ladder reflects my optimism that this threshold offers opportunity for evolution of human consciousness.

I hope my exhibit at Enso Gallery stimulates contemplation and discussion. I welcome your feedback.

 photo by Susan Friedman


Mended teddy


Jessica Thistlethwaite made this little guy out of band aids. Hmmm, got me pondering about what other interesting materials are around me everyday I can make art out of! Check out her other cool creations at

Robots, gotta love ’em

I have really been enjoying the rediscovery of San Jose this summer. One of the places I am really impressed with is the San Jose Museum of Art. They have two great exhibits there right now.

by Clayton Bailey
by Clayton Bailey

Everyone, kids to seniors will enjoy the Robot, Evolution of a Cultural Icon exhibit that is on until October 19. I have included a couple of videos of two artists to wet your appetite. One will remind you of Moontown!

New toolbox


Found sea shells from my local beach in HMB, have become my latest material in my artwork. I love the smoothness of the random shapes that have been formed by tumbling in the waves. As I collect them I have been placing these treasures in an old Japanese box. The matte shades of white look lovely against the shiny old black lacquer.

Jane, the curator at the Alta Bates Hospital gallery, invited me into the ocean-themed show which opens May 10 in Berkeley. I’m coming up with some cool pieces that will go into plexiglass cases in the lobby gallery. I’ll show you some new work soon!

Midas touch transforms recycled toys


Here is a novel way to take your kid’s neglected toys and make them into something functional. If you are thinking what I’m thinking, there is a lot of ways you can go with this kind of idea! But if you do not have time to do this yourself because you gotta run off to some meeting or wash the car or something, you can custom order one, but takes 6 weeks. Check it out here.

Spectacle art

This is a beautiful piece by Stuart Haygrath.


Spectacle is created from 1020 pairs of prescription spectacles which are linked together to resemble a traditional tiered chandelier. By using prescriptive spectacles which were once an essential tool for seeing an interesting analogous line is drawn between their old and new purposes. A mirror ball light effect is produced as the light is refracted through the several layers of lenses.

I like Haygarth’s work because he takes everyday objects and turns them into magical light sculptures. They cause me to step back and look at materials in a different way. Go to his site to check the many other pieces he created out of found objects like disposable wine glasses, man made debris from the shore, and more.