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'Kazumi Tanaka: Mother and Child Reunion' opens at the Fabric Workshop and Museum
Kazumi Tanaka. Silk fabric made with Shibori-Zome technique (traditional Japanese resist and dye processes), 2014. Silk. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Fabric Workshop and Museum presents new work by Artist-in-Residence Kazumi Tanaka, a Japanese-American sculptor based in Beacon, New York. Kazumi Tanaka: Mother and Child Reunion opens on Friday, August 1, 2014. This exhibition presents an accumulation of memories, customs, and traditional Japanese fabric processes that tells a story of family, tradition, and one’s self.

­­­­­Kazumi Tanaka is known for creating detailed and finely-crafted objects using a variety of materials such as wood, hair, metal, and Japanese fabrics. Recently, the artist produced a series of miniature Tansu (traditional Japanese storage cabinets) inspired by her memories of her childhood in Japan. The initial idea for her project at FWM was to examine what is typically put into and taken out of these bureaus. However, as Tanaka states in her exhibition journal Mother and Child Reunion, “When I am looking for something, often I find something else along the way. It catches my attention completely and I forget what I was originally looking for. Ultimately, this discovery leads me to find what I am really looking for…”

Throughout Tanaka’s childhood, her mother often told stories of their past; this storytelling of life and tradition influenced her work. Tanaka explains, “If you have a story and do not tell it to others, it remains just a thought. And by sharing with others it becomes storytelling.”

It is an old tradition in Japan that one day the mother passes each of her children his or her own umbilical cord as a way to tell them, ‘indeed you were my child.’ This is where we all start, the mother’s belly. I feel that is a universal truth. ----Kazumi Tanaka, exhibition journal for Mother and Child Reunion

Last year, after her 83-year-old mother had a stroke, Tanaka returned to her home in Osaka, Japan. While together, the artist’s mother experienced an extraordinary recovery. She asked, as she had many times before, if Tanaka wanted to take her umbilical cord, this time adding, “while I can still remember.” Kazumi Tanaka: Mother and Child Reunion will share this story.

While in Japan, Tanaka researched traditional Japanese fabric dye methods. In February 2014, she traveled to the mountain village of Miyama, Kyoto Prefecture, where she visited Hiroyuki Shindo, a traditional Japanese dye master and artist who specializes in indigo dye using Sukumo (traditional Japanese indigo dyestuff). Tanaka continued her travels to learn the basics of Shibori-Zome (traditional Japanese resist and dye techniques). In May 2014, as recommended by Shindo, Tanaka worked with artist Rowland Ricketts at Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts, Indiana University, who had been trained the traditional indigo farming and dying process in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan. These processes and fabric manipulation methods are used in the new work Kazumi Tanaka created during her residency at FWM. This exhibition will also include a video documenting Tanaka’s travels, her collaboration with FWM and the artisans of traditional Japanese dye methods, and her recollections of her childhood and culture.

Kazumi Tanaka: Mother and Child Reunion is the initial exhibition of FWM’s ongoing series, Convergence: Declarations of Independence, which presents to the Philadelphia community the energy and creativity of artists working outside traditional centers of the art world.

Kazumi Tanaka (b. 1962, Osaka, Japan) graduated from Osaka University in 1985 before relocating to New York in 1987, where she studied sculpture at the New York Studio School (1987 – 1990). Employing both ancient and modern sculpting techniques, Tanaka creates intricate and conceptually complex works that often involve childhood memories of Japan and address cultural differences between Eastern and Western livelihoods. She has exhibited at museums and galleries around the world. Solo exhibitions include presentations at the Kent Gallery between 1995 and 2003; as well as shows at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1993); Beacon Project Space, Beacon, New York (2002); and Hudson Beach Glass Gallery, Beacon, New York (2011). Tanaka’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including A Labor of Love, at the New Museum of Contemporary Art (1996); The Quiet in the Land, at the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art (1997); Model World at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2002); and Salem2Salem, at Neues Museum, Salem, Germany (2012). Most recently, her work has been included in the group exhibition Silence, at Masters & Pelavin Gallery, New York (2012). Tanaka has participated in numerous residencies, including the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Skowhegan, Maine (1990); the United Society of Shakers, Sabbathday Lake, Maine (1996); in Salem, Germany (2010, 2012); Art Omi in New York (2013); and is completing a residency as part of a 2014 Visual Arts Fellowship at the Citivella Ranieri Center in Umbria, Italy. She lives and works in Beacon, New York.

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