ArtIST: Mami Kato
As this is Phillyist's last ArtIST post, we're pleased to be ending the series with artist Mami Kato. A Japanese citizen, Kato was born and raised in Japan before coming to Philadelphia to attend the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts) on a transfer program. After moving back to Japan for a spell, she relocated to Philadelphia permanently eighteen years ago. For more insight into the career of this artIST, keep reading.
You received your Bachelor's degree in Sculpture from the University of the Arts here in Philly, and you also hold degrees from two Tokyo-based schools. As someone who has attempted to forge an artistic career within two totally different cultures, what remarks can you make on the experience?
I lived in Tokyo for about ten years and I felt great social pressure there which made it [hard to] live and work to become an artist. I also felt I was just one of a million of faceless people there. In Philadelphia, I can feel more physical and artistic freedom and I feel more individual. I think that part of the reason is the size of this city, diversity, location, and neighborhoody atmosphere.
You must feel some sense of satisfaction from your attempts to conquer the art world on two continents.
Now I feel a little more confident to call myself an artist.
Your website notes that the materials you use are "influenced by [your] childhood environment in Northern Japan (for example, rice stalks, rice fields and related ordinary forms from everyday life)."
I think I like mediums (or materials) that consist of natural fiber, like plants, rice paper, wood, etc. Somehow, those fit my sensibility.
How would you describe your work in five words?
I asked this question to my daughter, and here is her answer: whimsical, unique, convoluted imagery, precise, detailed—well, it's more than 5 words—and I'd like to add the word "poetic."
One thing is for sure: your artwork is unlike anything that we have featured on Phillyist. For instance, the image we've attached to this article is titled "Rice'n'Bean," and is composed of rice stalks, epoxy resin, fabric, and oil paint. What we enjoy most about it is the hidden lid that removes to expose a secret cavity. What inspires you to create a piece like "Rice'n'Bean"?
Forms from nature, quantum cosmology, neuro-science, and Buddhism.
I read on your website that your current work is reflective of your recent departure from "personal themes; from "I" as a personal human to any given human in the broader physical context." Indeed, this is a very Buddhist concept. Would you agree?
I'd like the audience to see themselves as a part of natural or Universal system, [to think] we are in that context.
Speaking of an audience, is there a certain type of person who tends to gravitate toward your work?
I hope that my work will have a big range of air wave, so [that a] wide range of people can catch it.
As a resident of Philly for eighteen years, what would you say is your favorite place in the City?
I guess right now it is Penn's Landing. I like being there when the sun is coming up and the Delaware river is calm.
Finally, do you have any upcoming events that you'd like our readers to know about?
I'll be in the group show called "Introductions 2011" at Moore College of Art & Design from February 2 – February 19. This is the part of the Career Development Program by the Center for Emerging Visual Artists (CfEVA).