Women take over: Northwest Asian Artists at SAM

By Deanna Duff
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Yuki Nakamura’s “Illuminant Pink Arrow”

Women have taken over the Seattle Art Museum. Not through protests or demonstrations, but with a different type of exciting, artistic occupation. SAM’s new exhibit, Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, features a century’s worth of female artists representing work from Frida Kahlo to Cindy Sherman. In honor of the local art scene, a companion show, Elles: SAM Gallery, spotlights Northwest women artists.

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Yuri Kinoshita’s “Moonshine” (above) and “Madoka” (below)

“Some are very established and some are more emerging artists,” said Jody Bento, SAM Gallery’s manager. “There are 15 artists represented and we included many different viewpoints and definitions of what it means to be a Northwest artist.”

Located a few blocks from the downtown museum, SAM Gallery’s mission is to provide a venue for regional artists to display and sell their work. The gallery’s Elles exhibit includes 50 pieces including photography, abstract paintings, three-dimensional work, ceramics, and more.

“Every artist has an uphill battle to get their work seen and to find an audience, but I think women still face unique issues. I don’t feel this exhibit is about settling a score with feminist-themed work. It’s a celebration of the women in this community,” said Bento.

The Northwest is also home to a vibrant group of Asian heritage artists. SAM’s founding collection was centered on Asian art and Bento believes it’s a natural evolution to spotlight the next generation. Seattle-based artists, such as Etsuko Ichikawa, Yuki Nakamura and Yuri Kinoshita, are included in the gallery show.

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Etsuko Ichikawa’s “Trace 3211”

“They bring an Asian aesthetic. I think in all three cases, the artists are concerned with beauty. There is a meditative quality — from the fire Etsuko applies to wet paper to the fine detail of the porcelain work by Yuki or the light filtered through woven paper by Yuri. It’s intellectual on some level. They’re not just going for a visual “Wow!” They want to create a feeling concerning beauty,” said Bento.

From art aficionados to casual admirers, the SAM Gallery show is a must see. It’s a rare opportunity to view a diverse survey of Northwest, female artists.

Etsuko Ichikawa

Etsuko Ichikawa was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, and works primarily as a glass artist. She came to Seattle in 1992 because of the dynamic glass arts community. She studied at Pilchuck Glass School and worked for Dale Chihuly.

“The Northwest has deep connections to Japan, Asia, and the Far East. I feel comfortable in Seattle. There is a strong Japanese American community and that encouraged me to stay and helped me survive the culture shock,” said Ichikawa.

While glass is Ichikawa’s primary medium, she also works with video, sound, fiber and creates both small- and large-scale installations. Three of her pieces are included in the SAM Gallery show.

A particularly interesting work visitors can view is a triptych piece conceived earlier this year during Ichikawa’s collaboration with the Calty Design Research/Toyota Design Studio in Newport Beach, Calif.

“The director challenged me to create a work inspired by the concept they were working on for a future car. The work was inspired by what I saw in their creative studios. If you really look at it, you can see some of the influences,” said Ichikawa.

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Yuki Nakamura’s “Illuminant White Gold”

Yuki Nakamura

Yuki Nakamura, born and raised in Japan, came to Seattle in 1995 to attend the University of Washington where she earned a Master of Fine Arts. Her chosen medium, ceramics, has expanded in recent years to include fashion design, printmaking, and multimedia projects.

“Like Japan, there are many little islands around the Pacific Northwest. There is a similar geography and that probably influences the Japanese community that’s been here for 100 years. It’s helpful as an artist,” said Nakamura.

In 2007, Nakamura was commissioned by Seattle City Light to develop a large-scale installation for their Municipal Tower office. She used hundreds of vintage, porcelain light bulbs and video projectors to create “Filament,” a thought-provoking look at light. The SAM Gallery show includes a smaller-scale version.

“It’s important to see museum shows with international artists and also gallery shows that focus on locals. It’s a different experience since this is a group showing (at SAM Gallery) with a variety of artists. It’s unique to have an overall feeling of what’s happening in the Northwest,” said Nakamura.

Yuri Kinoshita

A native of Kyoto, Japan, Yuri Kinoshita was an artist from a young age. As a child in her family’s kimono shop, she created a makeshift desk for drawing. As an adult, she fell in love with Seattle and it’s amazing views while visiting friends.

“In the second year, I understood more about the long Seattle winters, which gave me plenty of time to think. The fact that you don’t see the sun often is how the idea for my ‘Sunrise’ creations was born. I had always wanted to make creations that came from deep within and Seattle’s environment inspires my creativity,” said Kinoshita.

Kinoshita makes lighting pieces from natural materials such as linen paper, bamboo fiber, and Japanese silk textiles.
“I believe my light is not just an object of design nor a functional tool, but I want to make it beautiful like the sun and moon,” said Kinoshita.

Kinoshita’s 2007 “Moon Shine” woven light sculpture piece hangs from SAM Gallery’s ceiling. She was also inspired to create two new pieces, “Madoka” and “Tessen,” to complement the original. The pieces use Kimono textiles as well as bamboo and Japanese papers, which reflect her Kyoto roots.

“The power and influence of women in today’s world cannot be ignored,” said Kinoshita. “I believe the potential of female compassion are essential keys to solutions for the problems existing in the world. I am honored to be part of this historic exhibit.”(end)

Elles: SAM Gallery
Northwest Women Artists
October 25-December 1
Seattle Tower Building
1220 Third Avenue

Free and open to the public.

For hours and location, visit seattleartmuseum.org. Visitors should note, SAM Gallery hours differ from the downtown museum.

Deanna Duff can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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