Virtual Studio Tour, Preview of New Works with Artist Miya Ando
Asia Society at Home
HOUSTON, August 11, 2020 — In a remote tour of her Manhattan studio on Thursday, July 30, 2020, artist Miya Ando led the Asia Society Texas Center audience through a new series of pieces journaling the changing conditions of the moon during the coronavirus-related lockdown. Touching on materiality, history, and time, the artist — whose works are currently on view in Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form — gave a glimpse into her creative process in conversation with Bridget Bray, the Nancy C. Allen Curator and Director of Exhibitions, while also responding to questions from the audience.
Indigo Moon Calendar
Beginning the conversation with her reflections on creating work during the last several months, Ando indicated while it has been a surreal and frightening time, she has been fortunate to be able to continue to work in her studio. Beginning back in March, when she wasn’t able to receive deliveries of materials she usually works with, she came across some stored indigo, linen, and Japanese paper, which she followed down a creative path into a new series of works.
For several years, Ando has been writing a book of celestial observations and, in particular, working to translate the names of hundreds of types of moon according to the Japanese lunar conditions. To accompany that work, her studio practice over the last several months has become a daily journal depicting each night’s moon throughout quarantine.
Whether it is displaying the ephemerality of a cloud through modified glass or illuminating the texture of wood through the overlay of silver nitrate on shou sugi ban (a traditional Japanese charred wood architectural cladding), for Ando there is always a correct material to communicate the intention behind a work.
With indigo, Ando associates the long history of use in Japanese culture and in her upbringing. Growing up near Okayama, a city known for the practice of using indigo, she was constantly surrounded by the deep blue. Enveloping herself with the same material in her studio brings her back to feelings and thoughts from childhood, seeking solace in the memories of growing up in a temple complex in the Japanese countryside.
As a part of a longer time-based practice, Indigo Moon Calendar has allowed the artist to experiment with different materials and transformative processes. For the depiction of stars, Ando found herself inspired by the flickering lights in her celestial observations. The material she had on hand that captured the transitory nature of that starlight (visible and invisible at once) was micronized silver brought back from studying maki-e lacquer techniques in Japan. While her application of the silver to paper isn’t how one would typically use the material, Ando said appreciates the ability as an artist to employ materials in an unexpected, but still respectful, way.
And further, as Ando demonstrated through dipping a piece of paper into indigo and showing the audience, its transformation over time as it oxidized and dried. In doing so, the indigo’s atoms become a permanent feature of whichever substrate material she applies them to. Having worked over many years with the transformation of surfaces, Ando appreciates the balance of how these chemical forces of nature are both controllable and not, and is drawn to the harmony in the investigation of how materials intersect.
The natural world
Miya Ando addressed an audience question asking about her relationship with nature now that she resides in Manhattan, following a childhood living between a Buddhist temple in Okayama and the redwood forests of Santa Cruz. While she sees her relationship with nature differently within the city, there are consistencies that she noted are always present — that she can see the moon, the clouds, the stars.
Finding time to move quickly and slowly at the same time, Ando said she has drawn comfort during shelter-in-place from the constant systems of nature, waking early to watch the night turn into day each morning and observing the changes of the moon in a cyclical pattern. This constant change and ever-presence of nature are ubiquitous, whether in a cosmopolitan setting or the forest. And though Ando said she misses swimming in the ocean or walking around the forest, the moon drawings are a way for her to seek the connection and harmony that comes with being attuned to one’s environment.
Physical manifestation of the moon
In the conclusion of the webcast, Ando discussed her recent larger-format work, Moon Meditation Hut, which was commissioned by Good To Know, F.Y.I. and installed in June 2020 at Bhumi Farms, New York. In reaction to the social justice movements ongoing during this commission, Ando conceived of the work as an homage to the equality principle fundamental to the ritual of Japanese tea houses, each with a small-scale door that requires all to bow as they enter the room — historically true whether one was the emperor, a samurai, or a merchant — as the space has no social hierarchy.
The work is composed of three walls of linen, each depicting a different moon. Featured on the ceiling of the hut is a lunar corona, depicting the phenomenon where the moon is surrounded by a faint halo. The artist finds beauty in this object that shares a name currently associated with fear, but which is itself rare and quite beautiful to see.
Connect with the Artist
Business and Policy programs are endowed by Huffington Foundation. We give special thanks to Bank of America, Muffet Blake, Anne and Albert Chao, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Nancy Pollok Guinee, and United Airlines, Presenting Sponsors of Business and Policy programs; Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, and Leslie and Brad Bucher, Presenting Sponsors of Exhibitions; Dr. Ellen R. Gritz and Milton D. Rosenau, Presenting Sponsors of Performing Arts and Culture; Wells Fargo, Presenting Sponsor of Education & Outreach; and Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Presenting Sponsor of the Japan Series. General support of programs and exhibitions is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, Inc., the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, McKinsey & Company, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as Friends of Asia Society.
About Asia Society at Home
We are dedicated to continuing our mission of building cross-cultural understanding and uplifting human connectivity. Using digital tools, we bring you content for all ages and conversations that matter, in order to spark curiosity about Asia and to foster empathy.
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.
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