CULT | Aimee Friberg Exhibitions Presents:
MASAKO MIKI: Shapeshifters

Opening reception: January 12, 6-8 PM
On view: January 12 - March 23 (Extended)

CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions is pleased to present Shapeshifters, the gallery’s second solo exhibition of all new work by Masako Miki. In this exhibition Miki explores the ideology of transitional space, through the lens of her ancestral narratives, specifically Buddhist and Shinto traditions and early Japanese folklore. By reinventing visual symbols and narratives from her cultural traditions, Miki suggests alternative interpretations of ancient symbols, making a new synthesis possible. Shapeshifters opens on January 12, and coincides with Miki’s solo exhibition in the MATRIX program at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (Jan 9 through April 28, 2019). The exhibition will run through February 23, with an opening reception on January 12 from 6-8 PM, which is free and open to the public. The artist will be in attendance.

In Shapeshifters, Masako Miki uses the Shinto concept of, yōkai, or “shape-shifters” as a metaphorical departure point to explore blurred boundaries and dichotomies within the human condition. In Shinto mythology, yōkai are animated characters who can shift their form to appear as different animate or inanimate objects. They range from living things including animals and humans, to inanimate objects like tool such as sandals, prayer beads and mirrors.

Begun during her Watermill Center residency as an Inga Maren Otto Fellow in 2018, these soft, body-scaled felt sculptures are a continuation of her previous miniature yōkai forms, displayed at her last solo exhibition at CULT. The exhibition Shapeshifters will have three sculptures on view as well as a grouping of ink and watercolor drawings exploring transitional space between the animal kingdom and ghost-like forms approaching abstraction. Both bodies of work explore the multiplicity of inhabiting more than one body or form referencing the Shinto concept of animism, that all things can become imbued with energy or life force and suggesting that the material and immaterial worlds are often intertwined.

As a Japanese immigrant woman living between two cultures, shapeshifting can be seen as a metaphor for cultural adaptation and survival. Miki also uses this concept to reference an increasing number of non-binary spaces unique to the current zeitgeist including gender fluidity, biracial identity, and multiculturalism. In Masako Miki’s latest work, shapeshifters are used as the signifier that creates the idea of dissolving boundaries; the signified.

Of the new work Miki states:

Shinto tradition emphasizes the idea of interrelatedness in the universe. Its rituals are constant reminders of how things are connected rather than disconnected. Thomas P. Kasulis, in his book Shinto The Way Home brings up the notion of the nostalgia associated with existential religious forms. The etymology of the word “nostalgia” is the “ache” (algia) to “return home” (nostos). This home may be interpreted as a way of living and thinking. It envisions a world beyond human–centric logic, where humanity used to be a responsive part of nature, rather than being an exploiter. We are only a part of this universe; these shapeshifters are a reminder of our connectedness.

Shapeshifters opens at a pivotal point in Masako Miki’s career. Miki has recently been awarded residencies at prestigious programs including the de Young Museum, Facebook and the Watermill Center, has numerous commissions at the Facebook HQ. Miki’s work is in the collection of the Berkeley Art Museum and her related body of work will also be featured in a concurrent solo exhibition in the MATRIX program at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.


Originally from Osaka, Japan, Masako Miki has made the San Francisco Bay Area her home for 20 years. She has exhibited throughout the Bay Area at venues including Headlands Center for the Arts, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Kala Art Institute, and The Lab. She was 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) and the de Young Museum with an accompanying solo exhibition in 2016. She received the 2018 Inga Maren Otto Fellowship from the Watermill Center in New York and 2017 Artist Fellow Award from Kala Art Institute in Berkeley. Her works are in the collections of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Facebook, The Byrd Hoffman Watermill Foundation, New York and many notable private collections. Miki received her MFA from San Jose State University and has been on the adjunct faculty at University of California Berkeley, Davis, and Mills College. Miki is represented by CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions in San Francisco and lives in Berkeley, CA.

唐傘お化け Karakasa-Obake (Umbrella Ghost), 2018, wool on foam and wenge wood, 74 x 21 x 21 inches
きのこ Possesed Kinoko (Mushroom Ghost), 2018, wool on foam and walnut wood, 38 x 34 x 19 inches
雲外鏡 Ungaikyo (Possessed Mirror), 2018, wool on foam and walnut wood, 25.5 x 35 x 10 inches
Hyakki Yagyō (Night parade of One Hundred Demons) Fox’s Dream, 2018, ink and watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 inches
Hyakki Yagyō (Night parade of One Hundred Demons) Invited Fox and Water Jugs, 2018, ink and watercolor on paper, 30 x 22 inches
Hyakki Yagyō (Night parade of One Hundred Demons) Accompanying with Biwa Lute, 2018, ink and watercolor on paper, 30 x 22 inches
Listening Land and Sea, 2018, ink and watercolor on paper, 30 x 22 inches
Conversations with Plates, 2018, ink and watercolor on paper, 30 x 22 inches
Hyakki Yagyō (Night parade of One Hundred Demons) Awakening During Sleep, 2018, ink and watercolor on paper, 30 ½ x 44 in
Listening to Sun, Moon and Earth (after Alexander Calder’s Gibraltar), 2018, ink and watercolor on paper, 44 x 30 ½ inches

Media Contact: Danielle Fox,

Image credits (from top left): MASAKO MIKI, Karakasa-obake (umbrella ghost), 2018, 74 x 21 x 21 in.; Ungaikyo (possessed mirror), 2018, 25 1/2 x 35 x 10 in.; Kinoko (mushroom ghost), 2018, 38 x 34 x 19 in.; all wool on foam, walnut and wenge wood; Hyakki Yagyō (Night parade of One Hundred Demons), Fox’s Dream, 2018, 22 x 30 in., ink and watercolor on paper; Kuchisake-onna (Mouth tear woman), 2018; wool on foam, cherry wood; 42 x 71 x 13 in.
All images are courtesy of the artist and CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions.
Copyright CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions and Masako Miki.


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