Exhibit “Wajin” Brings Eye Catching Pieces
Exhibit “Wajin: Made in Japan” has been held from October 5 to 27 at the Japan Information Center, the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. The four exhibitors are painter Masao Kumada; paper-cutout artist Hyakkimaru; videographer Tamii Watanabe, and Chicago’s photographer Mayumi Lake who made the unique exhibit possible in Chicago.
Once you step into the exhibit room, you would be overwhelmed
by huge samurai figures created by Hakkimaru, whose works are called “kiri-e”
A reception of the exhibit was held on October 17 at
the Japan Information Center, and Hyakkimaru demonstrated his paper cutting
art. It was a good opportunity to talk with the artists.
Painter Masao Kumada
Kumada has worked to create book cover designs and book illustrations for numerous novel authors for over 40 years. He has also made illustrations for many magazines.
As a painting lover child, he dreamed of becoming a
painter. After working in a design firm and a commercial film maker, he
became an independent illustrator. He said that a key to success was selling
his talents to mainstream publishing companies.
Once a publishing company, an author, and Kumda enter into an agreement, he makes three rough sketches of his image about the author’s story, and the three sides discuss about the best choice. Kumada said, “I have my favorite design among the three, but it might not be the best choice when the other two people see it in an objective way. Sometimes, another design would be the right choice. The most important thing is working together. The best design will be reached by the three-side consensus.” Keeping that factor in mind, Kumada has created numerous book covers and illustrations with his unique ideas.
One part of his uniqueness is emotional face expressions
in his paintings. They are full of human touches. You would know what
a character is thinking about without any words.
Paper-cutout Artist Hyakkimaru
Hyakkimaru’s artworks have been used for more than 800
novel book covers, and the number goes up to 10,000 when his paper-cutting
illustrations include use for magazines and newspapers.
Hyakkimaru quickly improved his paper cutting skills
and made his artistic debut when he was 29. He used to visit publishing
companies, and that experience helped to promote his arts.
Ironically, publishing companies in Japan tend to have a culture to not accept such a self-oriented artist. Hyakkimaru said, “I believe that humans have to have a desire for improvement, but as long as you work with publishing companies, you cannot get out from a dilemma.” He plans to go New York where his friend will welcome him. He wants to challenge to sell his works as wall decorations in restaurants, for example. “Japanese people love to see arts and go to galleries, but they don’t buy works because they want to enrich their spirits and intelligence by watching arts. But for artists, we have to make business with audiences,” Hyakkimaru said. His website is https://takeuch3.wixsite.com/hyakkimaru/about
Videographer Tamii Watanabe
Videographer Watanabe screened her work “Distant Memories”
which has been inherited for more than 600 years to her family.
Watanabe and her husband planned to found a film company together, but her husband suddenly passed away in his 50s. She lost her mind, but she retrieved her energy to pursue her late husband’s will. She spent three to six months for five consecutive years in New York and studied videography and photography. She had her own exhibit in Setagaya museum in 2003 and has continued to work for her arts. Her website is http://six007.wix.com/tamii.
Photographer Mayumi Lake
Mayumi Lake is on the faculty of the Art Institute of
Chicago and also teaches classes at the Department of Photography. You
may know her name because of a Michael Jackson related incident.
In the Wajin exhibit, she displayed three panels of photography, which showed the stereotype of Japanese women through the eyes of Western people. One was high-school girls in sailor suits, and the second one was a parody of a typical photo of a Hiroshima a-bomb victim, whose kimono-dress patterns burned on her skin. The third photo described a woman and child in kimono with downcast eyes. They were submissive and snuggled with each other as if they were enduring an unpleasant fate.
Another Lake’s theme was mind preparations for a disaster.
She purposely created many imaginary scenes of devastation, similar to
the end of an unhappy movie. She said that she wondered about the meaning
of losing a home after the great earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku areas
in Japan. Her uneasy feeling had lasted for years, and she worked for
preparations to withstand disaster shocks.