‘Mono no aware’ and Japanese mentality

As I researched Japanese ancient poems *Hyakunin Isshu’ 百人一首  and keep creating my encaustic mixed media art series that is related to it by investing my emotions and imagination, I started to feel a ‘Mono no aware’ feeling/mentality is in some of those classical poems.

*‘Hyakunin Isshu’ 百人一首 is the collection/anthology of 7th-13th century Japanese waka (poem); 100 poems by 100 authors. As Japanese, we were told to memorize those phrases in school when we were small, mostly without knowing much of the meaning of each poem as a child. We also (including adults) play cards with Hyakunin Isshu Karuta traditionally particularly in New Year’s holiday in Japan in family. (How much you memorized affect the Karuta game to win! 🙂 But, again, most people don’t even care about the meaning of each poem because the words/phases are ancient Japanese and we don’t understand much.

Mono no aware’ is like Wabi-Sabi (explanation of Wabi-Sabi as follows at the bottom), it is originally unique concept that is based on the Japanese ancient way of life and its mentality.

But, NO Translation for ‘Mono no aware’ in English?

Mono no aware’ is considered difficult to be translated into other languages. Even many Japanese people cannot explain well in Japanese what Mono no aware means. We don’t use the word or term anymore in our daily life. Yet, we somehow learn in school (maybe junior high) in an ancient Japanese class a little bit. So, we know of the term, but there is not much consciousness about its meaning among most people. We may feel Mono no aware and we probably understand as subtle or vague feeling without even realizing it, though.

image of the art, Cry For LIFE -Lamentation (detail left) by MisakoOBA“Cry for LIFE – Lamentation C,” (detail) Misako OBA.
Original:  W38xH12xD1inch = approx. 96.5×30.5×2.5cm. Encaustic mixed media

I heard that an instructor in an interpreter/translator school in Japan one day asked students how to translate ‘Mono no aware.’ One of the top students who is Japanese-American and is truly bilingual answered, “I cannot translate.” The instructor nodded, “Correct.”  I have been pondering… Why?  It seems that because the meaning or usage of the term involves the natural environment such as topography and climate of Japan including the four seasons as well as Japanese way of thinking/history/culture, the instructor concluded Western people would not understand.  They normally don’t know about the way of ancient life in Japan, either. Therefore,  they don’t have experience or concept with that kind of situation/emotion/feeling or at least would have a hard time to understand.

However, as I have lived in the both countries, US and Japan, and traveled to many other countries and have close friends from different countries, I still believe or want to believe non-Japanese people would understand it. Maybe not everyone – each person in the world and their background is different- but some of them would understand. Some country even have a similar term, concept, and/or emotional state/feeling. Although it is quite characteristic of the Japanese world, it could also be found in other cultures….I assume. Perhaps not exactly, but as a similar emotional state as a human being.

I am not a linguist, so I found some references from books, dictionaries and online….and from my own experience. I feel challenged to explain, but will try. Some of my art pieces in Beyond Time & Space are created with emotion related to the Mono no aware’ feeling.

Cry For Life-Lamentation C, Misako OBA“Cry for LIFE – Lamentation C,” Misako OBA. Original: W38xH12xD1inch = approx. 96.5×30.5×2.5cm. Encaustic mixed media. Reflected poems #99, #68, #96, and #93 with re-written calligraphy. (As a triptych with two more pieces on the top, it will be W51x H26x D1 inch = about 130cm x 66cm x 2.5cm)

Definitions of ‘Mono no aware’

There are some different descriptions, but mostly it has the same or similar meaning. I selected some sources/references. Since the original descriptions are in Japanese, I personally translated the meaning as close as I can.  I hope those would at least help you a little to understand the term.

The word Mono no aware (もののあはれ/ 物の哀れ) is literally, “[4] pathos/pity of things,” but actually means:

– It is a profound or calm feeling/emotion/sentiment/atmosphere beyond description that seeps into the bottom of your heart that would occur when you are inspired by seeing, touching, or hearing things.  (=しみじみとした情趣: Commonly from multiple sources.)
Things that make you feel like you will forget your breath.

– Profound emotions/mood/feeling/atmosphere that naturally come up in the heart when touched on things or provoked and inspired by what one sees or hears.  Human beings affection. Elegant and delicate aesthetic philosophy gained by observing nature and life. (旺文社 古語辞典 [1] )

According 新明解 古語辞典 [2] , Mono no aware means:
-1. Atmosphere of things. People’ emotions.
-2. It is a literary term. A feeling/emotion that comes by touching the human heart and the beauty of natural objects. It is also a feeling/emotion/sentiment/atmosphere that seeps into the bottom of your heart.

-Mono no aware is one of the literary and aesthetic philosophy that are essential for knowing/understanding the dynasty literature during the Heian period (794- ca.1185) in Japan.
-A melancholic feeling or pathos by being aware of impermanence or transience of things.
-It is life ideal born from the hearts of the dynasty women who suffered and felt anguish. It is the ideology that influenced aesthetic sense and values ​​in Japanese culture. (Japanese Wikipedia[3] 

At the same time, feeling appreciative of [being sensitive to] the beauties of nature [things], and it has a positive meaning.

Lamentation and Mono no aware

Cry For Life-Lamentation (diptych AB detail), Misako OBA“Cry for LIFE – Lamentation”  (detail of diptych), Misako OBA. Original: W51x H12x D1 inch = approx.130cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm.  Encaustic Mixed Media on braced wood panel. Reflected poems #34, #83, #84, #66 and #11 with re-written calligraphy. (As a triptych with one more piece ‘Cry for LIFE – Lamentation C’ to the bottom, it will be W51x H26x D1 inch = about 130cm x 66cm x 2.5cm)

I titled this work ‘Cry For Life  – Lamentation’ because the Hyakunin Isshu poems that I enclosed with the re-written calligraphy in the work are exclusively about life, and the contents of those poems feel to me like lamentation.  The authors of those poems expressed a state of  sorrow and pathos that seems to lead to the idea that the life in this world is in vain as their conclusion after having lived for long enough to recognize things in this world/life. They somehow depict feelings of despair and desolation.  One day, I found the word ‘Lamentation’ in the Old Testament.  There is a Book of Lamentation in the Bible and I felt it has a similar state of mind… sort of.   Lamentation in the Bible seems simpler or more straight minded for the ‘lament’ and seems to have nothing or little to do with Mono no aware, though.  Yet, those feelings are part of human nature.

It seems some authors of Hyakunin Isshu felt Mono no aware with regard to life in general.  While they expressed life as vain and poured their negative and pessimistic feelings (negativity) into the poem, I still feel they included or implied the beauty of transient nature/life (positivity) at the same time, which is Mono no aware mentality. – It has both sides. They also describe the nostalgic feeling for the time each author had experienced in their earlier life.

Cry For Life-Lamentation (diptych detail), Misako OBACry for LIFE – Lamentation”  (detail of diptych), Misako OBA. Encaustic Mixed Media on braced wood panel.
Original: W51x H12x D1 inch = approx.130cm x 30.5cm x 2.5cm.

To translate those poems into modern Japanese or into English is also very hard since there are some unwritten facts, feelings or the background of the situation that are behind each poem. But, here are some examples:

Poem #66: もろともに あはれと思へ 山桜 花よりほかに 知る人もなし
(Morotomoni Aware to omoe Yama-zakura Hana yori hoka ni Shiru hito mo nashi).
Miss me as well as I miss you, wild cherry blossoms. In such a heart of a mountain, it is only I that know how beautiful you are and it is only you that know how lonely I am.

Poem #83: 世の中よ 道こそなけれ 思ひ入る 山の奥にも 鹿ぞ鳴くなる
Oh, this world doesn’t have any escape! Hearing a deer crying, even such a deep heart of a mountain, which I have come into with determination, seems to have bitterness and sadness too.

Poem #84: 永らへば またこのごろや しのばれむ 憂しと見し世ぞ 今は恋しき
I’m wondering whether I could look back on these bitter days with nostalgia if I live long, as well as I miss now the past time when I had much grief.

Poem #99 :人もをし 人もうらめし あぢきなく 世を思ふゆゑに 物思ふ身は
It is a matter for regret that I am lost in thought variously because of taking this world unworthy, sometimes loving people and sometimes hating people.

Poem #66, 83, 84, and 99: Translation by SIG English Lounge

…and more. Altogether, I put the 10 poems in my art in the Part 2: Cry for LIFE.
I categorized 10 poems out of 100 that would belong to ‘about life’;  used the nine into ‘Cry For Life I – Lamentation’ and one into ‘Cry For Life II’  with layering calligraphy.
Like the meaning of Wabi, the poems also referred to the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society; Sabi, originally meaning “withered,” is an aesthetic sense and beauty whereby you can feel deep things and rich things naturally in the silence.

image of the art, Cry For LIFE 2 #35 by MisakoOBA“Cry for LIFE II #35”  2017 by Misako OBA.   Encaustic Mixed Media on braced wood panel.
W12x H18x D1 inch = 30.5cm x 45.8cm x 2.5cm. Reflected poems #35.

Dealing with the part of the concept of Mono no aware in my Beyond Time & Space series,  you can take a peek at the artwork from Part 2 Cry for LIFE.  The exhibition is until the end of this month! (more info below) . Thank you to those who already have visited the gallery! As for this particular piece ‘Cry for LIFE II’, I started it during the Brush Creek Artist in Residency (summer 2017) and completed it in fall in Seattle. The pigment transfer images that I made on encaustic are from Korea, Wyoming and Washington State deliberately as if they were from Japan.

Image of Cry For LIFE 2 #35 (detail), Misako OBA

CryForLIFE2_detail3UmeHito_MisakoO_900s.jpg “Cry for LIFE II #35” (detail), Misako OBA. From beyond Time & Space Series, Part 2.
The leaves are from Seattle. The plum blossoms and the scenery are from Korea where I traveled early this year.
They may look as if they are from Japan, however, I intentionally use the materials from non-Japanese countries
where I have lived or traveled as a part of the journey of life; My photo images that appears partly in the work,
which are not just collage of printed images but pigment-transfer, are actual evidence as I become a witness of
our 21st century, conveying my series concept that depicts the same emotion in different ‘time and space’.

Poem #35: 人はいさ 心も知らず ふるさとは 花ぞ昔の 香ににほひける / Poem by 紀貫之 Tsurayuki Kino (868~945)
Dear innkeeper,  I don’t know whether your mind is the way it used to be as as it is said that the human mind often changes. But, the plum blossoms are in glorious bloom and giving off the same scent as before (and welcome me) here in the town.  (So, please do not be mad and put your good mood back and let me stay in your Inn.)

Poem #35: Translation by me.

The English phrases you see as abstract in the work is:  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:27)

Additional info about this poem and the work:  This poem was read by the poet Mr. Kino in response to the innkeeper who was not in a good mood when he/she saw him and little mad by saying “it’s been a long time since you stayed here last time.”  He expressed the comparison between the state of mind of human and nature with mild sarcasm.

ShowPostCard_Limner2017Gallery Hours Thurs – Sat:  12-5, Mon-Wed by appt.
Please call to confirm the open hours during the holiday. Tel:  518-828-2343 

LIMNER GALLERY, 123 Warren StreetHudson, NY 12534 

I didn’t like traditional or classical Japanese things or art when I was a child. It looked too old fashioned and lame. (My eyes were always towards the Western way of thinking, life or art.). I never really liked or was interested in Calligraphy, either. However, after living outside of Japan for many years, I started to feel differently about those Japanese traditional things and appreciate them. They have a long history and are deep and complex indeed. I even started to feel privileged to have known that mentality or philosophy by experience or by heart or mind.

Lastly, here is little bit more about the series, Series, Truth in Emotion “Beyond Time & Space”  – Reviving 100-WAKA (Japanese ancient poems/ letters) –
People today love and suffer just as the ancients did. Linked by our humanity, we face much of the same feelings and issues. It truly is beyond time and space.  
For this project, the Haykunin Isshu were re-written in calligraphy by my father, a calligraphy master in Japan using specific ancient characters (the same as back in those centuries) on traditional Japanese paper. Then, I have been creating art with encaustic (an ancient medium), integrating BOTH ancient and contemporary elements by layering in each unique piece in the series.

image of the art, Cry For LIFE -Lamentation (detail Right) by MisakoOBA“Cry for LIFE – Lamentation C,” (detail) Misako OBA.
Original:  W38xH12xD1inch = approx. 96.5×30.5×2.5cm. Encaustic mixed media.
Image of Cry For LIFE 2 #35 (detail), Misako OBA“Cry for LIFE II #35” (detail), Misako OBA.
Original:  W18xH12xD1inch = approx. 45.8×30.5×2.5cm. Encaustic mixed media

Wabi Sabi
As you read about Mono no aware, I assume you may think of the term Wabi Sabi, which is more popular internationally, and you know it or at least have heard of it. This term also has a complex meaning and cannot be translated easily. However, in short:

In traditional Japanese aesthetics,  Wabi Sabi (侘 寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection.  (……) Around the 14th century these meanings began to change, taking on more positive connotations.  Wabi now connotes rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness, and can be applied to both natural and human-made objects, or understated elegance. Sabi is beauty or serenity that comes with age, when the life of the object and its impermanence are evidenced in its patina and wear, or in any visible repairs. (Wikipedia)

Wabi Sabi is an ancient aesthetic philosophy rooted in Zen Buddhism, particularly the tea ceremony, a ritual of purity and simplicity in which masters prized bowls that were handmade and irregularly shaped, with uneven glaze, cracks, and a perverse beauty in their deliberate imperfection.  (Whole Living: Wabi Sabi Your Life: 6 Strategies for Embracing Imperfection)

This Wabi-Sabi philosophy reminds me of Kintsugi, which I heard and learned from my American friend recently, a Japanese art form originally invented by a happy accident.

At this time of the year as New Years Day and biggest Japanese Holidays are just around the corner, I ponder about a lot of traditions, customs, mentality, and meaning behind them.  And, I know I need to finish the work eventually with 100 poems in total!  (How many more? hmm…)

Wishing you a Happy New Year!!🎉✨

Source/References for the definition of Mono no aware:
[1](旺文社 古語辞典 改訂新版。松村明、山口明穂、和田利政 編 )
[2](新明解 古語辞典 第二版 三省堂。編者代表:金田一春彦、監修:金田一京助)
[3]   Japanese Wikipedia
[4]   Weblio 辞書

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Artist in Residence -Part 3

Today’s post is additional information such as meals and extra activities outside of studio at the Artist-in-Residency offered by Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts in the U.S.

You can find more information about Artist-in-Residence (AIR) in my previous posts based on my experience.

Part 1)  What is AIR? Environment and Facility of the AIR at Brush Creek Foundation of the Art (BCFA).
Part 2) Benefits of AIR, highlights from the Open Studio and list of AIR programs in the world.

Part 3)

Not all AIR program provides each meals. However, Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts provides breakfast, lunch and dinner almost every day. In order to focus on working, those are big help. They have a laundry facility and they have detergent and dryer sheets…etc. Artists’ lodge (sleeping unit) was located just about from 30 seconds to a couple minutes walk, depending on your studio. I really appreciate those conveniences to save time and concern.

The breakfast was self-prepared. The program provides basic food and supplies such as eggs, bacon, fresh fruits, bread, bagels, cereal, oatmeal, milk, juice, cream cheese, honey, coffee, water and tea…etc. If anything is missing as days go by, the artists can let them know by writing on the white board. Or you can buy your own stuff and can keep it in a fridge. They even had energy/cereal bars to take for our hiking. (It is important to bring water (bottle) when you hike in the mountain! The air is thinner due to the high altitude.)

They bring a lunch selection around lunchtime to the kitchen. Dinner meals are also shared family-style in the common area in the evening. Those are America’s Western-fare lunch and dinner prepared by chefs. If you are a vegetarian, require a gluten-free meal or have allergies, you can request it in advance. Feeling appreciative of all those options and arrangements. The amount of food was always enough – more than enough and we always have leftover. One day, I asked about the large amount of food/meals. One of the directors answered with smiling, “We don’t want artists starving ^^).”

Artists are responsible for clean up after meals and we enjoyed doing it all together with timing how fast we could clean! We had a great teamwork. 🙂 During my residency, some artists baked cookies for all of us, others made chocolate sauce for ice cream topping, others made banana ice cream shake. Yum! Hmm…. I miss all those! Great memories.

Extra activities outside of Studio
A couple of my friends asked me about activities outside the studio in the artist in residency. So, I decided to post those ‘side’ activities that I did, which were fun! I guess I look/am very serious in a studio (Of course…during the work).

So, what we did outside the studio time:
■ Stimulate your interest in the library.
What’s interesting was to see other artists’ work as a book or in CD/DVD form. There are many books by the current and previous resident artists. They welcome the reading materials from the artists to fill their library collection. So, I donated my FAUSTUS book. As other artists had a chance to view the book, I appreciated hearing the comment from them.

■ Hiking to the mountain!
Hiking on the Brush Creek Ranch in Saratoga, Wyoming was very different from hiking in Washington or in Japan. It’s mostly flat and with no tall trees, which I found interesting and also enjoyed. Flowers are…hmm….mostly thistle. I felt so different. It was quite nice to walk not in bush! The location itself was in very high altitude, so we had to be careful. They advised we drink lots of water. Fortunately, my body got adjusted and used to it very quickly and had no problem. There are many hiking courses available right near our studios. They provided us a map of Brush Creek Ranch trails and roads. We went on hiking individually. Some artists went hiking almost every morning and ‘conquered’ all trails! The Foundation says, “You must have previous experience with each activity and feel comfortable adventuring out on your own.” Yes, the mountain is nature. For safety sake, we were advised to write our name, where to, what time we expect to come back on a white board for each time we venture out. I went hiking in the early morning before it gets too hot and to avoid strong UV. Or we as a group sometimes just walked near our studios in the evening. It was very refreshing and beautiful!

■ Bonfire, S’mores, Gazing at stars…
We gathered together around bonfire a couple times after work, enjoyed company and conversation, made S’mores, and gazed at stars…. I saw the Milky Way with my naked eye for the second and third time in my life! Those experiences would be reflected in my work. We were there in summer. As non-guided activities at the Residency, in winter they say cross country skis, poles or snowshoes can be checked out from their Barn.

 Night Out
At night, we went to town for a live music bar where an assistant director for the Art Foundation was singing for her gig! (She is a musician, too.) The atmosphere of the bar was super different from the ones in NY or in Seattle. The crowd was very different. It was a great experience. I played pool there with some artists from our AIR, and it was fun! Unlike my previous residency experience, a lot of us (eight artists in total) this time had a chance to get together and most of us are very talkative by nature (in a very good way), so we had lots of conversations outside the studio, which was great, too!

■ Eclipse
During my residency in summer, there was eclipse this year. In some regions in Wyoming, you could see total eclipse. In our artist camp at Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, it was 97%. The certified eclipse glasses (that my thoughtful assistant ordered) arrived to my studio right before the event in time! We all enjoyed the process of eclipse.

■ Tour – Spirit of the American West
The Art Foundation gave us a tour and trips to the town of Saratoga every Monday where we can get extra snacks, alcohol or art supply (at the hardware store) if we need.

There is The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch near the Artists’ camp. They also gave us a tour there.

Over the years, Brush Creek Ranch has served as a home to numerous families, cattle and horse herds, offering a one-of-a-kind gathering place for guests from around the world. The story of Brush Creek Ranch dates back to 1884 when the Sterrett brothers settled the land and built the original homestead with logs cut, skid and hauled from the adjoining National Forest.  In 2008, the ranch was purchased by Bruce White, Chairman and CEO of White Lodging, one of the most respected names in the hotel industry. The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch is the culmination of the White family’s extensive hospitality experience, continuous dedication to philanthropy and unabashed passion for the sustainability of authentic Western heritage. Their vision unfolds as a refined 15,000-acre getaway that strikes a perfect balance between active outdoor recreation, shared experiences, economic sustainability and preservation of the western way of life. (History of a Wyoming Ranch, Brush Creek Foundation for the Art)

■ Hot springs
There is a natural hot spring (called Saratoga Hobo Hot Springs or Hobo Pool) available in the town of Saratoga, Wyoming, which is open 24-7 and free to the public. The pool is owned and maintained by the Town of Saratoga. Some of the artists went and enjoyed! There is a river near the hot spring, so you can jump in and out of those two hot/cold water!

Selfie Photo Shooting
We live in the time of cell phone cameras and digital photos including selfies. On the second from the last day of our residency, after cleaning up the studio, most artists dressed up…a lot of them dressed up like American Western style, and they were ready to take photos of themselves:).   I was encouraged to join them, so I changed and we all had a photo shooting.  You can be creative in any opportunity at the end.



:: My other related posts about Artist-in-Residency☺::

Part 1)  What is AIR? Environment and Facility of the AIR at Brush Creek Foundation of the Art (BCFA), WY, USA.

Part 2) Benefits of AIR, highlights from the Open Studio and list of AIR programs in the world.

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Artist in Residence -Part 2

*AIR in Japan and For further info  were added (on Sep. 20).

As continued from my previous post, this is about Artist-in-Residence (AIR), Part 2. 

During the Brush Creek Foundation of the Art (BCFA) AIR last month, we had an open studio event. As I mentioned, while many artist-in-residence programs require or request guest artists to have some contributions such as a workshop, exhibition at the end, or collaboration in the community and so forth, BCFA’ s open studio had no such obligation. That actually made me feel more free and more appreciate it, and willing to share voluntarily. In fact, all eight artists including me chose to attend the open studio and share our work.

Part 2)  Photos/highlights from the Open Studio and an event by the artists at Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts Artist-in-Residence.

The Business Benefits Of Visiting An Artist’s Studio
If you are interested in collecting art, viewing art, or even just feeling appreciate art, this article from Forbes may be a good read.

By the way, What are the Benefits of the Artist in Residence? 

For a long time, I was not really interested in AIR maybe because I had a space to work on my art near my apartment or inside my house (although it may not be huge) and didn’t want to be bothered by traveling far with all the equipment and art materials all the way to somewhere I cannot have access to the city, town or to art supply stores easily. (I have to admit that I have spent most of my life in a big city, and it has been easy to get around to anywhere/anything). Or paying a rent for an apartment and an art studio, and I felt overwhelmed to leave those or leave daily tasks for weeks for AIR. However, there is a time for everything. This summer was a perfect time for me to get out where I live/work and spend some sharp focused creative time for a project in nature and unfamiliar environment. So, last spring, I decided to apply for one of the AIR programs that I heard is great, and my artist friend recommended me to it a couple years ago. The program is organized by the Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts, and fortunately, I was accepted.

If you are an artist (visual artists, writers, playwrights, musicians/composers, performing artists…), architects, scientists, researchers or academic scholars…etc, you may want to be in AIR because:  

  • It gives you large chunk of time and space outside of your normal routine.
  • allows you to immerse yourself creatively in your studio
  • gives you a different environment for your work and living space.
  • allows you to develop/improve your practice.
  • helps you create new work.
  • helps focus on advancing or getting to finish your project without much interruption.
  • sustains you professionally.
  • exposes you (your work) to an art or art-interest community.
  • generates possibilities in various ways.
  • furthers/advances your professional career.
  • gives you resources and time for reflection.
  • stimulates/inspires you for your possibilities, ideas, creativity and/or art business practice.
  • may lead to exhibitions, performances, and/or publication
  • may get you completely new ideas or direction.
  • will raise/keep motivations for your creation.
  • enriches your career and life. 🙂

You can:

  • learn or experiment a new skill, technique or materials.
  • gain more of your knowledge.
  • share/be shared information or insights of your field.
  • have opportunities to interact or connect with other artists of the same field or different field. (Create/ build/expand networks).
  • possibly have an access to specialized tools, resources or archives
  • may have an opportunity to start/establish relationships with curators and those who have interest in art. 
  • connect with the host organization/institution.
  • contribute to the community with your art.
  • learn your creative market (or possibly develop new markets).
  • increase confidence (especially, if you are an emerging artist).
  • have recognition of being selected and awarded a residency.
  • may have stipend or financial support.

Those are possible benefits, and it also depends on what your career stage is. I feel the important thing is to know your own goal in the residency and even for your entire career.

What I did in the A.I.R.

During my residency this summer, I resumed working on the series ‘Truth in Emotion, Beyond Time & Space,’ in encaustic mixed media, as its Part 3.

People today love and suffer just as the ancients did. Linked by our humanity, we face much of the same feelings and issues. It truly is beyond time and space.

Continuing from Parts 1 and 2, which I completed in 2015 with 28 works, I integrate both ancient and contemporary elements by layering ca. 7th through 13th century Japanese poems in re-written calligraphy with my encaustic painting. Becoming a witness in a different Time and Space, I combine these with actual images produced using a transfer technique to evidence our own 21st century U.S. At the same time, I invest my own emotional content and imagination.

The process involved photographing nature including wild animals, wall textures and so forth, locally. The sand (very small stones) I found on the ground in front of my studio were embedded in the encaustic and became the ground of the image. Due to the series concept, these elements should originate elsewhere than in Japan. The work is a deep examination of our soul and emotions and also depicts the transient nature of beauty. Dialog with nature became texture in my work.

Also, my father, who passed away last year, was a master calligrapher in Japan and contributed a portion of his work to this series. Therefore, the work I created/create in this series will also function as an homage to him.

Image (right): This encaustic mixed media  “Four Seasons – Fall” (detail) contains the ancient Japanese poem (Hyakunin-isshu #5). Photo images of deer, silver grasses, maple leaves…etc. from the actual/natural objects from here in the U.S.. I did archival pigment image transfer onto wax (encaustic mixed media).

#5:  奥山に 紅葉ふみわけ 鳴く鹿の 声聞くときぞ 秋はかなしき (猿丸大夫)
Translation: How lonely autumn is when a deer calls his wife plodding on the ground covered with maple leaves in the mountains.

Image (left): This encaustic mixed media  “Four Seasons – Fall” (detail) contains the ancient Japanese poem (Hhyakunin-isshu #5). Photo images of deer, maple leaves…etc. are archival pigment transfer.

#1:  秋の田の かりほの庵の 苫をあらみ わが衣手は 露にぬれつつ (天智天皇)
Translation: The roof cover of the temporary shed for harvest in autumn is so rough that my sleeves are getting wet and wet with dewdrops.

“Best Artist Residency” in Europe!?

There are many Artist in Residency in the U.S. and internationally. I feel the one I experienced this summer was one of the best in the U.S. (At least, it suited me.)  I didn’t know much about the Residency programs in Europe or Asia. But, I came across recently this Artnet News post, listing “Best Artist Residency” in Europe.  It seems those are from experts’ perspective. The programs are in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and more…

More AIRs in Europe:
Bogliasco in Italy
Camargo in France
La Napoule Art Foundation in France 

AIR in Japan:
I didn’t know much about AIR in Japan. But, I found this source.
■ AIR_J is an online database of artist-in-residence programs in Japan.
A lot of organizations welcome non-Japanese artists. So, if you are interested in living/creating in Japan, you should take advantage! (For AIR, awards or opportunities in Japan, they often limit the applicants’ age and/or nationality, which is unfortunately still a part of their culture.)
I have been to Arcas in Ibaraki (- I was invited to write a story at that time when I was a journalist). They have an open studio. For Arcas, if you are only non-Japanese (nationality), you can apply.  It seems many organization has a language support. Akiyoshidai International Art Village has Japanese bilingual coordinators who support the artists during the residency.  So, if you can speak English, it should be fine.

Are you looking for Artist in Residence programs in the U.S.?

The fellow artists that I met at BCFA AIR have experienced other Residency previously. (Actually, all of us had).  The programs below are the ones they recommended. I would suggest you pick what fits you. It depends on your arts career and what you are looking for. Best Wishes!

-Listed in the order of what we (the artists from BCFA AIR) have been in and/or what talked about the most.

Other than Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts,
Ucross Foundation in Wyoming
MacDowell in New Hampshire
Jentel in Wyoming
PLAYA in Oregon
Djerassi in California
 I-Park in Connecticut
Ragdale in Illinois
The Millay Colony for the Arts in Upstate New York
Hambidge Center for the Arts in Georgia
Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, New York
Sitka Center in Oregon
Horned Dorset Colony, Leonardsville, New York
Anderson Center in Minnesota
Willapa Bay AiR in Washington
■ Lighthouse Works – Fisher Island, New York
Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida

For further info:
[res artis] is a worldwide network of artist residencies. You can find more listings here as well.
DutchCulture|TransArtists has a search engine for artist-in-residence opportunities worldwide (with around 1400!).

The publications below are just for your info. I personally don’t know if those are good and true, but it would be your options to check them out. The guideline or application process of each program may be updated at any time.

 8 Artist in Residence Programs to Launch Your Career

7 Artist Residencies With Career-Launching Power | Artwork Archive

7 artist-in-residence spaces where creatives can live and work for free

Are You an Emerging Artist Looking to Raise Your Game? Here Are 7 Residencies That Can Help.

:: My other related post for Artist-in-Residency:

Part 1)  Environment and Facility of the Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts Artist-in-Residence, WY, USA

next post
Part 3) …  Extra extra, including food they provided ☺ Will be coming up soon.
– Library, kitchen and meals.
– Fun thing you can do while in the Residency.

Come back again for the Part 3! 

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Artist in Residence

Experience & Review from the Artist in Residence 

This summer, I humbly feel honored to be selected as a visual artist for Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts Artist-in-Residence (AIR) in the U.S.A. It was my second time to experience AIR. I had a such a productive and wonderful time there in their well-equipped huge art studio and meeting other people including Artists selected for Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts AIR(writers, composers/pianist, visual artists).  The Foundation provided us not only our own studio and individual sleeping unit/lodge with own bathroom, but also each meal, so we were able to well focus on creating our own work.  We walked in some evenings, and some artists did hiking almost every day in this beautiful environment. 

In this blog and the next couple of the blog posts, I am sharing some photos/highlights from this specific AIR and information about Artist-in-Residence in general.

First of all, What is Artist-in-Residency? 

I found Wikipedia described it quite well. In short:

“Artist-in-residence programs and other residency opportunities exist to invite artists, academicians, curators, and all manner of creative people for a time and space away from their usual environment and obligations. They provide a time of reflection, research, presentation, production and immersion into a new culture. They often allow an individual to explore their practice within another community; meeting new people, using new materials, experiencing life in a new location and potentially integrating elements of that experience into their art. Art residencies emphasize the importance of meaningful and multi-layered cultural exchange and immersion into another culture.”

Each AIR really varies. My first AIR in Pajama Factory in Pennsylvania few years ago was offered only for visual artists such as oil painter, glass artist, mixed media artists like me…etc.  This time, the artists that Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts (BCFA) selects are multidisciplinary –  to visual artists, writers, musicians and composers. I liked both with difference setting.  Although I am a visual artist, since I have a writer’s background, and have been interested in music since I was a child, I ended up enjoying it and feeling inspired much more than I expected.  All artists who I met this summer are amazingly talented, intellectual, educated, and also knowledgeable in all areas/genre that are NOT their specialty(!), including TV shows, films and of course, books. In addition, they are fun and humorous. I felt privileged to be there.

Part 1)  Environment and Facility of the Brush Creek Foundation of the Arts Artist-in-Residence, Saratoga, WY.

It was just gorgeous! I loved my summer studio that they offered. The writer who was in the Residency at same month loved his studio, too.  His studio has cool decoration and the atmosphere would serve and get you work productively. (I will share more photos in the next post.)

As for the visual art studio, each artist gets own studio individually with a separate door and windows with shades and ventilation on the ceiling. The studio was equipped with an easel that can hold 60+inch canvas, 2-4 folding long tables, a rolling work cart, chairs, electrical outlets, own utility sink, masking tapes, basic toolbox including nails and a level, drop-cloth…etc. I appreciate the lights that have both spot tungsten lights such as the ones normally used for exhibition on the wall and also florescent light that can light up the entire room as well as natural light.

I also liked and appreciate the very short walking distance between the studios and living units in wooden lodge. Walking/commuting to your studio in safe and easy environment is important.

More about Artist-in-Residency in general.
Conditions and Selections

Many residential art centers lay down the terms guest artists have to comply with, such as an exhibition at the end of the period or a project, achieved by collaboration with other artists or cooperation with the public. However, many centers offer unconditional hospitality: the artist is free to use the residency for his or her own purposes, without any obligation towards the host. (Wikipedia)

We had an Open Studio event, however, The BCFA said it is not obligation and no expectation. Therefore, if the artist decides not to attend/show the artworks and prefer keep working in the own studio, that’s fine, too. So, doing something in order to “exchange” with their offer is not applicable here. They respect the artists’ creative time and space, and generously provide the environment for artists’ productivity. I felt unconditional hospitality.

Although it seems summer is more competitive to get selected, I chose summer time 😉  to be in Residence. Just because where I live is very hot and humid in summer and hard to work, specially since I use a heat gun and torch, working in a studio in hot weather is a torture. The town Saratoga in Wyoming appeared to me as perfect with low humidity and cool in summer.   (This BCFA residency seems to have a good heating system in winter; I found the visual art studios have thermo floor. So, it looks comfortable to work in winter as well.)  For the BCFA residency, you can choose either two weeks or four weeks.


Operating an artist-in-residence program costs money. Some residency programs cover all costs for the artist, some offering stipends, others don’t cover any costs at all. It is not unusual that residential art centers cover the costs only partially, which may make it necessary for the artist to find additional funding. In some countries artists can apply for subsidy at state governed bodies…. (Wikipedia)

I found that a lot of AIR charge the artists for fees such as weekly or monthly fee after you get selected and some are quite expensive,  let alone most meals are often artists’ responsibility. It really depends on the program.  So, if you are interested in AIR, read their guideline carefully and see if it fits your need and expectations.  The BCFA requires no fee to stay/work in their AIR and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. By the way, the amount of food was plenty. Although Saturdays (or Sundays) are not provided, there are so much leftover that you couldn’t finish… 

In my next post, as
Part 2) …  I will post the benefits to be in AIR along with some photos from our Open Studio and the event.  I feel the one I experienced this summer was one of the best in the U.S.  Meanwhile, I will post the list(links) for other AIR program including the “Best Artist Residency” in Europe. –> posted on Sep. 19.

Part 3) …  Extra extra, including food they provided ☺ Will be coming up soon.
-Library, kitchen and meals.
– Fun thing you can do while in the Residency.

Come back again for the Parts 2 and 3!  (They will be shorter. 🙂


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Holiday Shows with Stars and Code

Enjoy Holiday Shows this Winter: Stars, Code…

In this beautiful holiday season, I am truly hoping you have a moment for yourself – even in the middle of busy time. Treat yourself with quiet time by walking in a park, looking up at night sky (Stars looks clearer in winter!) and going out to explore new things. Stop by new galleries to you :).  Hope arts brighten your holiday & winter season, and give you peace, joy, fun, energy, inspiration, hope and new perspective for your next year and forward!

Purple Shadow (detail), artwork by Misako Oba

Currently, my works are on view at the following galleries. They are encaustic mixed media paintings from my on-going “Stars and Desert” series. However, for the first time, I am showing the work with the “code.” Code that has something to do with stars! It is somehow abstract. My works are often semi-abstract, I would say. It took me a quite long time to figure out what/which code to put. It’s finally done with a help of my friend who is a talented Software Developer.

Illusion, encaustic mixed media by Misako Oba“Illusion,” Misako Oba, Encaustic mixed media on wood. 9x9x 1.5 inch (left: framed). Details of the work. Code shown (right).

Dacia Gallery holiday show 
December 8, 2016 – January 26, 2017
Dacia Gallery
53 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002

(F, 6, J, Z train)
Tel: 917.727.9383

Purple Shadow, Misako Oba. Code shown by point“Purple Shadow” – Job 38:33, Misako Oba, Encaustic mixed media on braced wood. 16.5x8x1inch.

:: Visit the gallery to see the actual pieces and feel the texture and see the code, C Programming language () in the art works. ::

Featured Artists: Erin Anderson, Noah Buchanan, Janet Cook, Seth Foss, Max Ginsburg, David Kassan, Nikolina Kovalenko, Yuri Leonov, Shana Levenson, Travis Little, Stefano Losi, Hilary McCarthy, Rachel Meuler, Misako Oba, Robert Pillsbury, Edmond Rochat, Joshua Schaefer, Billy Seccombe, Errol Smith, Patricia Watwood, Stephen Yavorski and Leah Yerpe.

Purple Shadow (right piece), detail, code shown. Artwork by Misako Oba

Holiday Small Works Show and Sale
December 3 –January 7, 2017 (extended)
Limner Gallery
123 Warren St., Hudson, NY 12534
Tel: 518.828.2343

The Day Dawn. Love Flowing. artwork by Misako Oba“Love Flowing II” — Psalm 136:7-9 (left).   “ The Day Dawns ” —2 Peter 1:19 (right), Misako Oba
Love Flowing II (detail), Code shown with point. Atwork by Misako Oba“Love Flowing II”  Details of the work. Code shown (right).


More about the work with code

As I previously wrote, the “Stars and Desert” Series was developed after moving to Seattle, WA from New York, NY. I have been creating art (encaustic mixed media paintings on wood panel, printmaking, works on paper and canvas) with Text that has something to do with stars, constellation, desert, and universe, in abstract way. Text from the Bible interests me because of its insight and depth meaning. As a contemporary artist, I always try to push the boundary and wanted to include something very current or something that is reflecting our time. – As I have lived in Seattle, I started to feel more connected to computer related people or its environment, partly because the Seattle area is a place where lots of computer related professionals come to live and work. It has Headquarters of Microsoft and Amazon, and after moving in to Seattle from NY, I naturally got friends who are in the industry. In our time, we somehow cannot live without any types of computer/devices/equipment anymore since they are deeply or lightly related to our daily life…in a good way or bad way. Thus, I wanted to include something that reflects this to my series.

I was already using some scientific or mathematical formulas in my art, but I also began to want to use a computer language, code. – Code that has something to do with stars, Milky Way, constellation…etc. I have been looking for and researching by myself and also asking computer software programmers/developers or a computer science professor with PhD. However, this was not easy. To me, they are really a secret code. I cannot read computer languages. The code has to fit my concept and needs to please me esthetically and usable as layer to my art as well as no copyright infringement issue. Then, finally, I got those code samples with a help of one of good friends who has a big interest in astronomy and who is a software developer at the same time. He was a great help, patiently answering my questions (again, I cannot read C language and such) and giving me good suggestions.

So now, my new work from this series contains both ancient materials such as encaustic paint, the Bible verses AND the contemporary material such as inkjet pigment (transfer) and computer programming language/code.

“Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away.”
– Carl Sagan

Wishing you a Wonderful Holiday & Prosperous New Year!✨

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Driven by Ideas and Emotions: Artist as Maker, Thinker, Feeler

 Until someone mentioned, I didn’t even realize that my works have emotion. I have been told since I started making art even with photography. The subjects were not people themselves but mostly cityscapes with concept in semi-abstract way; gelatin silver black and white photo series, Feeling at Night, El Camino-Beyond the Tunnel-, and blue-toned Blue Fire Flies, and color FAUSTUS series among others. People mentioned it on more latest encaustic mixed media work as well.

I think, that is probably because I put my emotion and emotional contents to the work while creating or even printing. Sometimes, naturally comes from inside, other times, I deliberately try. Not always successful, though. It is like meditation. Hmm…Maybe, not exactly. It is more like reflecting, pondering, wondering and/or thinking/sinking in deep with the scene or experience from the past or fly to an imaginary world with specific idea.

The Artist as Maker, Thinker, Feeler

There is a theme-based national exhibition [The Artist as Maker, Thinker, Feeler] this fall/winter – It has been on view at Cade Art Gallery, John A. Cade Center for Fine Arts (detail info below). I was happy that my works are selected for this exhibition. Jack Rasmussen, who is currently on the Board of the Maryland State Arts Council and serves as the Director and Curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, curated the show.

“This is for art that is driven by ideas and emotions, but that also has a strong emphasis on aesthetics, materials, and craft. In other words, the work in this show will be conceptually and emotionally dynamic but will also have a strong embodiment of form through process.  The show is open to individual interpretations of the meaning and relative importance of concept, form, and process in one’s own art-making practice.”

cry-for-love-two-emotional_w1200These are from the series, [Truth in Emotion, Beyond Time and Space.] Encaustic mixed media on braced wood panel (encaustic/oil/pigment/ink/Japanese paper). Completed 25 works in Part I.

The images such as bamboo, trees, and mountain may look as if they are from Japan, however, they are intentionally from New York and Seattle as applying to my series concept. The Mt. Fuji look-like mountain is from North cascade in Washington. (Pigment transfer).


The concept of this series [True in Emotion, Beyond Time and Space] reflects my continued interest in human life as a journey, and is a metaphor for our lives. It depicts a deep examination of soul and emotions and an exploration of universal experiences such as sorrow, loneliness, and turmoil (darkness) as well as peace, joy, and hope (light).

People today love and suffer from the same issues as ancient people did. It’s beyond time and space, I realized. The collection of 7-13th century Japanese poems known as 百人一首Haykunin Isshu are re-written in calligraphy, using specific ancient characters like those centuries. I layered these with ancient medium encaustic AND delicate high-tech pigment ink transfer of my photo images intentionally from America where we live, which are ACTUAL EVIDENCE from our 21st century as a WITNESS, while invest my own emotional content and imagination into these poems and work.

Viewers will find a journey beyond time and space while knowing the same feeling/emotions and issues that we face as human.

The way to approach

While people told me that my work is somehow emotional,  I tend to work on art pieces with calculation and testing rather than just spontaneous movement of the brush and so forth. Maybe because my background is photography that often requires precise calculation or detail settings in shooting, printing and adjusting that includes a ‘second’ to get the result you want. Also, I was a journalist and the occupation requires me to think logically and fairly by default. So, in my painting process, those are somehow influencing.

It is a combination of calculated and spontaneous approach.

Observant and Intuitive

Left brain and Right brain

Control and  Incontrollable flow/happy accident

Restrain and Passionately fee 

They are not half and half ratio, it varies and depends.

Although I sometimes forget all theory or rules when I am actually creating because I just focus strongly what I am doing for that moment, I believe good art must have a soul….let other people feel soul. I know I cannot control what other people feel, so I just do what I believe.

I create art as you do the work. Calm and/or passionate. Also, sometimes very strong emotion comes up to me first and just cannot help not to paint, draw or write. When it comes, I really like and try to sustain that emotion/energy.  Not often.  I sometimes paint crying/sobbing.

When creating art with strong emotion and/or concentration comes to me so much, I forget to eat or rest. (On the other side, when I am writing something like right now, I nibble unconsciously and end up with eating a lot sometimes… That is not good. I know. ; )

Overall, to me, after practicing, testing and/or experiencing, I would feel more freedom to make intuitive and spontaneous actions even within restriction that I set. Perhaps, this is common technique for musician or any other professions.

The Artist as Maker, Thinker, Feeler: All-Media National Juried Show
November 18-December 19, 2016
Cade Art Gallery, John A. Cade Center for Fine Arts
101 College Parkway
Arnold, MD 21012

My hope is to reflect diversity of thought and experience, believing art gives you energy and allows you to see things from multiple perspectives and provides inspiration in your life.

Other art shows (holiday exhibitions!) info will be also posted soon.

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Gross? Or Beautiful! – Clean and Rebuilt Public Art

It was unexpected.

Locks in Germany

When I ran into the “flocks of the locks” in Germany this past summer, I thought of these-
Seattle Gum Wall before cleaned

The Gum Wall in Seattle – One of my friends took me there when I first moved to Seattle and I was so impressed! I know it’s gross! But, I actually really liked them. Each time friends from out of state or overseas came to visit me in Seattle, I took them there. This place even became a wedding photo shoot location for many couples.

The wall is located a kind of “behind” the Pike Place Market, which is a popular tourist site. It is on the sides of the building that is home to the Market Theater, where improv performances take place.  I feel that makes it even more interesting. People began sticking chewing gum here around 1993 and the wall has been a tourist attraction since around 1999, according to the info.

Market Theater in Seattle

Then, in November this year, the Gum Wall in Seattle was cleaned for the first time in 20 years! I don’t know if 20 years is long or short for this…It depends on how you feel.  It certainly has history.

When I heard the news last month, it reminded me of  the collection of locks in Germany that I saw a few months back.

I also wonder if removing the gum in Seattle this year was inspired by the earlier event in Paris, when they removed love locks from the Pont des Arts bridge.

It may be coincidence that both cleanup events have occurred within a short span of each other. The collection of each person’s love, fun, and relationship has become a public art, and it has been culling people and attracting even more people to share their inspired memories. The objects and the inspiration behind these memories continue to increase more and more.  The gum accumulating on the wall is the same.  Now, they have been removed. It may repeat as often history finds itself repeating.

Although I was in Paris in May, I was too busy to do sightseeing and didn’t have a chance to see this bridge Pont des Arts. However, when I was traveling in Cologne, I had more time to walk around and encounter the locks on the bridges in that city (The first photo). They are still there. They have not been removed at least yet.

To me, I feel they are art – they were built by so many individuals’ emotions, expressing as excitement and curiosity. I consider those accumulated locks and colorful gum as being truly public art that consist of each person’s life and contributions.

They are now cleaned away; It’s simple, yet, complex.

There are myriad of stories and dramas that have been untold, which cannot be erased through the scrubbing and removing.

Their beauty, passion, and themes, now seemingly lost in the past, are to be unlocked in their future unborn!

It is a new beginning! New gum walls and love locks! New art and life.  (In fact, officials expect and have seen that the Gum Wall will be re-created.)
It’s a new beginning of another history.

At the end of this year, I was pondering about those.  Wishing you all a Happy New Year!


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