On the coldest Saturday of the school year so far, I cabbed down to the Fabric Workshop, excited to check out Kazumi Tanaka’s collection at the Fabric Workshop and Museum. It’s a place dedicated to promoting contemporary art and mixed media, permitting audiences to go see the artists as they work from beginning to end on their exhibitions.
“Mother and Child Reunion” is a collection by Kazumi Tanaka, the FWM’s most recent Artist–in–Residence. A Japanese–born artist who focuses on childhood memories and cultural contrasts, Tanaka uses mixed media to create extremely delicate masterpieces. She doesn’t fail to impress at the FWM, where she uses metal, hair, wood and Japanese fabrics.
The exhibition is intimate. Through her artwork, Tanaka reflects on her relationship with her mother, who she visited after her stroke last year (the original reason which she went to Japan, as she lives in the USA). The collection of Tansu, which are Japanese storage cabinets, is astounding. Though Tanaka initially intended to focus on the items contained within these cabinets, she opts to actually emphasize the structures. Making beautiful miniature versions of them, she the boxes as vehicles to establish differences between the East and the West.
In part, the collection was also inspired by the research she conducted in Japan when she returned in 2013. In the village of Miyam, she worked with Hiroyuki Shindo, a Japanese dye master. Shindo specializes in making dye with Sukumo, a traditional indigo dye from Japan. She then went to the Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University and worked with Rowland Ricketts, an expert in traditional indigo farming. The processes she learned of fabric manipulation were used during her time at the FWM in the creation of a series of fabrics.
At the end of the exhibit, there is a film screening documenting Tanaka’s collaboration with the FWM. In the video, we gain insight into the personal experiences of the artist. Tanaka talks about her influences: her village, her childhood, her culture.
It’s an exhibition that continuously surprises with items and elements exploring personal and cultural boundaries. Like mother and child, the objects displayed are distinct but share a resemblance.