As a painter, I employ elements of my discipline’s language—color, line, space, and form—to visually engage the viewer. But as an artist I also wish to communicate the feeling of not wholly understanding the relevant language, a state of disequilibrium that intrigues and invigorates me.
My interest in language derives from a lifetime of feeling that I do not quite understand what is being communicated around me. I began kindergarten in New Jersey unable to speak English, and the Japanese I speak exclusively with my parents is so rudimentary that I have never had an adult conversation with them. In every place I have lived, even when I understood the spoken words, I have puzzled over my new community’s etiquette and conventions, namely its social language.
My thoughts about language have evolved through several bodies of work. In my Spatial series (2013-15), although I am nostalgic for my longtime home of San Francisco, a sense of mystery permeates. Referencing Modernist traditions and Asian brush painting, I allude to transitory, illogical, and hidden urban spaces. My Opera series (2015-16) is inspired by my passion for an art form of which I have limited understanding for I do not speak the foreign languages used in many libretti and have only a layperson’s grasp of the music. I listen to opera while I paint and frequently attend live performances, but many facets of this complex art form remain enigmatic. I am attracted to the significant challenge of distilling an opera’s essence, including its mystery, onto a single sheet of paper
In 2016, I discovered a new visual tool, hiragana, which I use in order to elicit a state of incomplete understanding in the viewer. Forty-six characters comprise this Japanese phonetic writing system once known as the “woman’s script.” In my Hiragana series, I use these characters in an idiosyncratic fashion to spell out English words and phrases. To the English-speaking viewer the Japanese characters are graphic forms whose meaning is revealed only in the work’s title. To the Japanese speaker the hiragana spells foreign words. By combining these two languages, I purposely render the majority of my viewers partially literate/illiterate.
Recent American political events have driven my work in a more narrative direction, away from pure abstraction. These paintings deal with notions of conflict and miscommunication among social groups, particularly between different races. In my work I combine unexpected and unconscious elements with formal and conceptual concerns. My process is to build and erase forms and spaces until I achieve a satisfactory balance of structure, gesture, and mood.