June Sekiguchi: Within/Without
ArtXchange Gallery through February 25th
Artist Talk Thursday, February 2 at 3:00 Reception to follow 5:00-8:00
June Sekiguchi was a 2011 recipient of an Individual Artist Project. We’ve invited her to share the artist residency that the award funded as well as the artwork that resulted from her residency experience.
My sculptural installation, Within/Without, represents a set of opposite experiences: the most wonderful opportunity I’ve had in my life for my art, and the worst time in the pain of loss. From the outside, this work was created in response to an artist residency I had in Laos at the invitation of Prince Nithakhong Somsanith. Funded in part by a grant from 4Culture, the residency goal was to observe Lao art practices in order to inform new studio work. From the inside, it’s a temple to honor my mother. My time in Laos coincided with what turned out to be the process of my mother dying from injuries from a car accident.
Luang Prabang is Laos’ cultural capital and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 because of the many temples that exist in the small town. Exiled to France, Prince Somsanith has returned to Luang Prabang in recent years to help revive the traditional arts that were dying out since the communist government takeover in 1975. The sensory experience in the meditative atmosphere of monks chanting compelled me to make something for my mother in reverence.
I approached the residency free from preconceived direction. I was ready to abandon the tool I was predominantly using, to find new methodologies and new directions. Prince Somsanith fast-tracked me to artisan workshops in silversmithing, weaving, ceramics, woodcarving, papermaking and stencil making. As I absorbed various techniques and mediums, I came to value why I had been drawn to pattern and surface in the first place. It was the appreciation of the hand in a knowing-ness and an aesthetic fed by history, linking these arts to a living, breathing tradition. I realized that rather than abandoning my previous practices, I needed to push my medium to its ultimate conclusion.
I found many opposite notions throughout the Lao culture. Theravada Buddhism can exist and thrive under a communist government and co-exist with spiritual animism. Rich, sumptuous temples have existed over centuries, housing the Buddhist precepts of impermanence and non-materiality while the rest of the country lives in the raw beauty of bamboo. In my responsive work I use contrasting materials and construction as a metaphor to convey the opposites I was feeling internally and what I was observing externally as an outsider looking in. Fragility and stability; life force and collapse; complexity and simplicity exist within and without.