When did you start to embroider with your hair?
Since 1985 I've had a studio in Mexico, where I often see local women
embroidering, and that influenced me. My first embroideries were done
in the early nineteen nineties, starting on the pre-printed squares
available in Mexican markets. I was especially drawn to the emotional
pieces with expressions like "You are my Life", and "I'm
Yours Forever"---sentiments that in the USA were considered unmentionable
or excessive. I altered the designs, and soon moved on to embroider
personal sentiments on domestic items, like tablecloths and bedspreads.
It became obvious that my own long hair was like thread, and by the
early 1990's I was embroidering with it on handkerchiefs and silk
lingerie, words like "yearning" or "rage".
What made you invent your own language, that unique alphabet?
I wanted to inscribe a universal language, one that could be interpreted
individually. When I found a rectangular embroidery hoop, the fabric
looked like a piece of paper in it, and I began making "words"
with simple stitches. Ancient scripts inspire me. Each "word"
is as long as the hair used to stitch it with allows.
An aspect of the work is the urge to communicate, and the difficulty
of being fully understood.
What do you mean to convey with the use of Japanese kimonos?
Until recently I resisted the presumption that, being Japanese/American,
I should use Japanese iconography. After my father died in 2002, I
perceived my personal history in a new way. I wanted to somehow experience
that element of my past, and those feelings guided me to use the iconography
of the "Zen zero" symbol in the Hair Scan prints and to
collect vintage Japanese textiles.
The installation piece "GENERATIONS" is composed of a number
of formal black kimono jackets; each represents a life. The number
of garments varies according to the installation space.
What inspired your series on mending?
My mother taught me how to darn socks, mend tears in fabric; however,
I grew up in a consumer society and seldom mended anything. Now when
I see carefully mended cloth or garments, they seem poignant, for
the obvious care and thrift implied by the act. Mending creates future
for the thing mended. There is so much disaster and waste in the world
it seems natural to turn to this metaphor of mending.
At a Kyoto flea market I found rolls of carefully patched vintage
kimono cloth. In exhibition, the cloths are installed in ways I hope
to convey a sense of time passed and valued, worn, torn but worth
mending-- as with the traumas of life, which deserve compassion and
care. The addition of hair alludes to the need for human intervention
in the act of repairing, mending, being healed.
What made you turn to making the pompoms?
While preparing for the "Liberation" show in Oaxaca, troubled
by the triangular shape of one of the gallery rooms (as well as feeling
unnerved by the turmoil in the world at that time), I saw a bowl of
shocking pink pompoms from Guatemala in a shop. All worries momentarily
vanished as I enjoyed their unapologetic, simple beauty. The idea
of filling that oddly shaped room with gigantic pompoms came to mind,
leading to the installations, the "Pompommeries", in which
viewers can walk among the colored balls of squeezable art, becoming
a part of that world.