Tamiko Kawata’s Flow of Life: Nagare is an installation made entirely of pantyhose and safety pins. This dynamic installation engulfs the Ruth S. Harley University Center Gallery with the donated hosiery. Each pair has a story and life of it’s own, some stories belonging to members of our Adelphi community.
Since my graduation from university in Japan, studying sculpture as a major for four years, I took many roads coming to my current position.
My sculptural education was academic; but learning about “Bauhaus”, “Dadaism” and “Assemblage” in Europe and Gutai Group in Japan in my forming years their philosophies became solid core for my way of thinking and for my art making direction.
I took an artist-designer position upon the graduation with a glass company in Tokyo. It was very important to be independent for a woman to pursue professional life at the time. I have produced large hanging sculptures and lighting fixtures for contemporary buildings, temple and a castle besides designing numerous tableware between 1959 -1961. I left the company in late 1961 when they have changed the policy taking away artists’ experimental factory hours and artistic works in early 1961.
I came to New York City via San Francisco and Washington DC in 1962, seeking for new environment to achieve my artistic goal. I worked as a curator to promote Japanese industrial and handcraft works that included introducing Toyota and Nissan automobiles through Japanese External Trade Organization in New York City, also curating Western tableware as exhibitions from 1962 through 1966. This work enabled me to earn the visa status and study English. These five years were my first course for learning the language and the new life. I worked, as a studio assistant for Ben Seibel in evenings, was also a valuable experience.
In the early New York life, safety pins entered my life out of the necessity to shorten all too long American clothing. Almost never having used safety pins in Japanese life it became my primary medium for my artwork. In the beginning I was experimenting form in body ornaments. It helped the financial end too, at the same time it was the stage of learning the material’s possibilities for sculptural medium. One of my body ornament “Orpheus” is in a permanent collection of Museum of Arts and Design in New York City. I developed them using as a thread, as a truss and as palpable clay that made me able to develop sculptural forms. Two large hanging pieces were shown in “Fiber R/Evolution International Exhibition” at Wisconsin/Milwaukee Art Museum 1986, traveled for two years in the United States. It followed by a commission from an architect’s office, and produced a hanging piece, 7ft high x 17ft wide.
I received grants for new project in 1991 and 1997 from Empire State Craft Alliance of New York State and from Ruth Chenven Grant in 1998. It enabled to execute the first “Rain Forest” installation for 12ft high x 60ft x45 ft space of Vibrant Gallery in Soho, NYC in 1998. It is conceived as a personal protest against the many forms of chemical violence experienced in the modern world. It is a memorial to nature and humanity that black rain represents nuclear rain, rusty rain represents urban rain and silver rain represents clean rain.
It became like a Japanese Ryoanji Rock Garden, their Buddhist monks draw ripples on sand for the rock garden in Kyoto. I have installed this work for Staler Art Center, State University of Stony Brook, NY in 2000, Disjecta Gallery, Portland, OR in 2002, American Academy for Arts & Letters, New York, NY in 2005 and for inauguration exhibition for multi cultural center in Sand City/Monterey, CA in 2012.
Receiving grants such as NYFA Grant for Crafts in 2002, and in 2005 (as Gregory Miller Fellow), Pollock/Krasner Grant: 2006, and residency awards such as Millay Colony for the Arts, Austerlitz, NY, Edward Albee Art Residency in Montauk, NY, Louise Bourgeois Residency Award from Yaddo, Saratoga Spring, NY, McDowell Art Residency, Peterborough, NH were extremely helpful for my development as well as being a member of Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts’ studio program since 2002. They are especially important for me who did not have an education in this country.
In 1999 I had a solo exhibition at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, NY for their sculpture garden and indoor gallery space. It was my first experience to exhibit safety pin sculptures for outdoor conditions. I used long flexible spiral cylinders, the structural formula I found in early 1996. Included are “Two Serpents” with 30 and 40 feet long, and 6 INS cylinders, wrapped together to extend 25 feet high sited on a beech tree, and another “Serpent” of 20 feet long, sited on a matching smaller beech tree. I installed “August Grove” in their circular meditation space. It consisted of 77 pieces of short cylinders in various stages of rust; they are 6” high to 42ins high. They are solid tensile structures and can stand by themselves. This image came from young bamboo shoots, tough and full of energy, that comes out in spring on roadsides in Japan. Followed by an invitation to install “August Grove: Four Seasons” to Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia, NY in 2000. Most recently I have installed “Grove Adelphi” for Adelphi University’s Biennial Outdoor Sculptural Exhibition in Garden City, NY with 90 pieces for their open lawn. I add new pieces for each installation to create different character.
I have been showing mostly works with safety pins in public but I have been developing other works using indigenous objects from our daily life for my medium and discarded material that connect to my new life in America. My choice of materials and interpretation are influenced by the differences that I experience between life in America and Japan. I am working in large and small scales in belief of their potential for intimacy. They are my visual diaries.
“Wavelets” using toilet paper for Carriage House at Islip Art Museum, an experimental installation space, “Passing Life: Four Falls” using used pantyhose, The New York Times art section and toilet paper for Florence Lynch Gallery, New York City. I believe that installation works are most suitable opportunity to emphasize on environmental issues and I have a strong focus on this matter.
I composed a paired floor piece with safety pins: Yin & Yang: square (Pueblo) and circle (Ripple) installation of 16’H x 25’ x 25’ space for Williamsburg Art Historical Center in Brooklyn, NY in 2004. I participated to a group exhibition of “Reduce/Reuse/Re-examine” for Glyndor Gallery, Wave Hill, Bronx, NY with a site-specific installation “Archway”, 9ft high x 6ft wide x 3 INS deep, I used about 1300 toilet paper tubes to build.
We: the Art Discussion Group of 12 artists organized a work in progress, an experimental exhibition, “Tag Projects: Growing up in Public” at Repetti Gallery, Long Island City in 2005. I participated with “Secret Devourer”, using a shredder with visitors’ shredding material. I revise the concept each time I show this work and have shown four more times, most recently as a part of CurateNYC in 2011.
In 2008, I made “Silent Fall” with safety pins and stainless steel frames for a hotel lobby as a part of New Art Fair, New York City.
Creating works “Appetite”, “Plate” and “Flower” using cardboard and food packages and fruit seals for the participating deli store “N7 Deli” was for community event organized by Larry Walczak. Thirty-three stores on Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY have participated the event, letting artist use their storefront.
I was invited to a three artist collaboration work for a health center on Canal Street, in Chinatown, as a part of “Metro Poles: Art in Action Three Boroughs of NYC” exhibition. We worked on windows, doors and ceilings and their reception desks of their building.
In 2012, I installed a safety pin sculpture for LongHouse Reserve’s “20th Anniversary Sculpture Exhibition with Donald Baechler, Tamiko Kawata, George Rickey, Toshiko Takaezu” for their Sculpture Garden, in East Hampton, NY, where I first had an outdoor exhibition in 1999. I returned to install “Rusty Serpent” and “Sea Anemone” for their permanent collection.
It was exciting to participate to “Environmental Concerns: Earth Matters: Five Artists” exhibition in 2011, at the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington, NY.
I installed a site-specific waterfall “Newsday Fall”, 10ft high x 12ft wide x 6ft deep, using five weeks of Newsday, a local daily newspaper, and “Newsday Sea Urchins” with advertisement flyers.
I was invited a solo show by Kentler International Drawing Space in Red Hook, Brooklyn for November 2012. This is my first installation work using only paper. I created “Vertical Sound: White and Naked” with two 120”H x 40”W pieces for small vertical space. I cut, scored, gouged tiered and peeled the double layered corrugated cardboards and finished with acrylic medium. It happened that I had to work in the middle of Sandy Hurricane that struck New York City area and Red Hook area was badly affected where the gallery is situated but luckily it was only the two blocks did not loose electricity and water did not reach the gallery floor in the area that I was able to work.
I have enjoyed the invitation of residency from MeetFactory and a solo exhibition for their Kotska Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic in 2014. It is a non-profit art organization includes music & sound art, literature and theater works beside visual arts. I installed “Quiet Room with Sound” for a 30 feet x 30 feet x 30 feet gallery space with waterfall on one wall using receipt paper and constructed a centerpiece, a table with large mirror reflecting the beautiful dark colored wooden ceiling above the gallery walls. I worked the sound with my friend sound mixer Hiro Iida.
It was a great honor to install “Passing Life: Waterfall” work for the large but intimate niche for “2015 Annual Invitational Painting and Sculpture Exhibition” at American Academy for Arts and Letters, New York, NY. The medium is discarded pantyhose and few safety pins for connection; 13 feet height x 10 feet width x five feet depth became the dimension.
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