CULT | Aimee Friberg Exhibitions is pleased to present Conversations with Fox, Feather and Ghost, a solo exhibition of new drawings, sculpture and installation by San Francisco Bay Area based artist Masako Miki, on view from March 4 through April 30, 2016. The gallery will host an artist reception on Friday, March 4 from 7 – 9 PM; this is the artist’s first solo exhibition with CULT.
Masako Miki is an artist known for immersive installations and detailed works on paper. Miki often portrays animals in relationship to other species as a metaphor for personal transformation or the precarious place of our physical and emotional surroundings. A native of Osaka, Japan, Miki explores the intersection of belonging, cultural assimilation and metamorphosis.
For Conversations with Fox, Feather and Ghost, Miki explores the intangible world of spirits and souls as portrayed in traditional Shinto & Buddhist cultures, integrating distinct traditions of communicating with the deceased and spirit entities of the natural world. ‘Shinto,’ which translates as ‘Way of the gods’, is a collection of native Japanese beliefs and mythology expressed through ritual practices to celebrate a multitude of gods or ‘kami’. One principal ritual is the annual event Obon which commemorates one’s ancestors, who are thought to return to earth in order to visit their living relatives. At the end of Obon, participants float lanterns down the river to the ocean to guide the spirits back to their world. In Shinto belief the saying “Yaoyorozu no kami”, which literally translates as “Eight million gods,” characterizes many natural elements and animals as deities, exhibiting a range of personalities and characters. Fox, a recurrent motif in this new grouping of drawings, is one of the most mythical animals, known as messenger in Shinto origin stories. The Feather, newly introduced to Miki’s cast of characters, positions her native landscape in conversation with the Native American Sanctuary of Gualala, a coastal Mendocino county town where Miki was in residence last year. These mystical animals and objects Miki portrays manifest in a state of metamorphosis, alluding to the unseen spirits that fill the rich Shinto tradition.
Miki’s use of the Japanese craft tradition of hand felted sculptures and paper lanterns offers the viewer an experience of heightened materiality and reduction of form to its most essential: the subtle domains of that which is imperceptible and immaterial. The transparent and delicate qualities of the Japanese washi-paper, used to construct the lanterns, demonstrate the ethereality of our natural world. Miki describes her intent with the paper lantern installation: “I wanted ‘A way home’ to evoke the experience of visiting a shrine, which is the place where the tangible and intangible realm intersects. My installation serves as path to enter the main structure in shrine, which the short walking path is usually surrounded by trees, lanterns, stones and statues.”
Miki’s felt sculptures draw references from Yokai/Obake (preternatural creatures or monsters) in Japanese folklore. Literally the term means ‘a thing that changes’, refering to a state of transformation or shapeshifting. Often the Yokai take on form of a disguised animal like cat, or a fox, or it may disguise itself as a human, or appear in a strange form such as one-eyed child, or faceless ghost. Miki approaches these preternatural monsters with a sense of humor, her use of color and materials suggesting a playful and mischievous nature.
Masako Miki´s work envisions a cosmic view of our world in constant flux expressed through an evident affinity and connection with nature. The meticulousness in her works emphasizes the importance of minute gestures, a micro and a macro vision, in which each element, no matter how small it may be, is integrated in a universal order. The whole emanates from every part; every part permeates the whole.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Masako Miki has exhibited throughout the Bay area at venues including Headlands Center for the Arts, the Berkeley Art Museum, Kala Art Institute, and Root Division Gallery. She has been a resident artist at The Wassaic Project (Wassaic, NY), Vermont Studio Center (Johnson, VT), Project 387 (Gualala, CA), Kamiyama Artists in Residency (Tokushima, Japan), Facebook Artist in Residence (Menlo Park, CA). Miki is scheduled for the Artist in Residence Program at the de Young Museum in 2016. She received her MFA from San Jose State University, and is an adjunct faculty at University of California, Berkeley. Miki is represented by CULT | Aimee Friberg Exhibitions in San Francisco and lives in Berkeley, CA.