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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FAUSTUS New Website/blog Launched!

I am happy to introduce the new website/blog.  Some of you may already know that Misako Oba’s photography/artbook [FAUSTUS] was published by Sokyu-sha in Japan.

140817_cover_fix The text is both in English and Japanese. (Not direct translation, but the author is sending messages in the book to non-Japanese audience and Japanese audience, considering in the different way of thinking because of the culture difference.)

The website will be updated more and the story behind the FAUSTUS will be posted.

大庭みさこのFAUSTUS に関するwebsiteができました。これから日本語でもアップしていきます。

[About the book]
Title: FAUSTUS      

Author: Misako Oba
Publisher: Sokyu-Sha
Color 88 pages, 69 photographs
Text: English/ Japanese
Price: 3888 yen (in Japan)
Limited edition of 500. (Signed copy available at the publisher or at some bookstores).
Editor: Michitaka Ota
Designer: Katsuya Kato
Creative direction by Misako Oba

Many thanks for the efforts of the following individuals
who made this publication possible: Mine Suda (,
Pei Koay, Blake Henry, Stephanie Nikolopoulos, Eric
Weinstein, Rebecca Drew, and Jeremy Block.

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Music and Art – Orion

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ―Plato

Recently, one of my friends had to end a relationship and she said she feels pretty upset and heartbroken. The saddest part is that she thinks they might have ruined their friendship. It seems complicated and each relationship and breakup is different. Only those who are involved may know their actual feelings or what the right things are. (The “right thing to do” is not always the right thing for the other party or other people, though. It is complex since we all have different ways of thinking, values, background, the level of maturity and so forth.)

I experienced the death of a loved one recently. Heartbroken.
We all are. To some degree or at some point in life.

When everything goes wrong or when you feel hurt or pain, you may question: why has this happened?

01_Orion1_MisakoOba_manFocuss_c800 02_Orion1_MisakoOba_c900s“Can You Loose the Cords of Orion?” Collagraph, Mixed media with beeswax,
Unique, Variation of 1/3, Misako Oba. From Stars and Desert series.

I asked God, “What have You done?
Everything I love is gone.

Why must I endure this pain, won’t You come and save me?

Tell me are You listening, do You hear my shouted pleas?
Will You answer me this day, won’t You come and save me?”

I was answered by my Lord,
“Can You bind Orion’s form or guide his path?”

I looked up and answered, “No,
but You can, so I will hold in Your strong hands”

The hands that own the stars above,
will never let me go.

The one who holds the heavens up, in Him I put my hope. Yeah, who am I that You should love, and bind in Your embrace?
Well, God is this who holds the stars and guides me in His grace.

Lyrics from “Orion”*
Song by Cam Huxford and Dustin Kensrue
Seattle based band Ghost Ship

Sometimes, I feel inspired by music. It directly or indirectly influences my art or the concept. One day in Seattle, I had an opportunity to hear this song. I was not expecting to hear this kind of song in mid-day. But, my soul was simply moved.

03_01_Orion101_Orion1_MisakoOba_c80004_Orion3_MisakoOba_c950“Can You Loose the Cords of Orion?” Collagraph, Mixed media with beeswax, Unique,
Top: Variation of 1/3 (detail). Bottom: 3/3.  Misako Oba. From Stars and Desert series.

*You can preview the song “Orion” here. Click the number in front of “Orion” (#12 as of October 28) in the link.

When I had hardships long time ago, the artworks of Henri Cartier-Bresson unexpectedly healed my soul and inspired me for life. I was not an artist at that time and not even interested in art. But, I “encountered” his work and it evoked my emotion. Since then, I started to think that I would like to do the same kind of things. What can I bring to other people? What can I do to inspire them and improve their life and serve them?

The answer motivated me to switch my career from journalist to artist that allows me to share my perspective or personal experience in the form of art. I felt I understood the role of art for the first time. Still, art is deep.

“I think an artist’s responsibility is more complex than people realize.”
Jodie Foster

You can see the artwork of Orion Can You Loose the Cords of Orion? and other artwork on paper, canvas, and wood (including encaustic mixed media and photography) at Converge Gallery from November 7. Their CG Projects presents my solo show Beyond Journey of Light and Life. <<Please check back later for updated info and images on each website.>>

I would love you to see the actual artwork and see the texture and the embossing as well.

November 7 – November 29
Misako OBA “Beyond Journey of Light & Life”
at Converge Gallery
140 West Fourth St. Williamsport, PA 17701
Tel: 570-435-7080

Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 11am ­- 7pm
or by appointment.

Feel free to ask me or the gallery (Converge Gallery) any questions about the work.

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Posted in Creative process, Encaustic, Mixed Media, Music and Art, Printmaking/Intaglio, Quotes, Seattle, wax or beeswax | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time You Enjoy Wasting, was Not Wasted.

01da_Rapeseed_MisakoOba_Quote“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.” *

This is not a typical art blog today.
While my encaustic mixed media work is exhibited at a gallery in New York City, I am away from my studio, visiting my family in Hamamatsu(浜松), Japan.

The Golden Week will (officially) start from April 29. (The G.W. is one of Japan’s busiest holiday seasons.) Hamamatsu has a renowned Hamamatsu Festival 浜松祭り(May 3rd – 5th) during this national holiday that draws approximately 1.5 million people every year from all over Japan, and even from abroad.

Recently, four of my American friends in the U.S. happened to ask me the same question, “What is the name of your hometown?”

I thought to myself, “Hmm…they wouldn’t know of the name itself, or the name of this festival, and the name is difficult for them to pronounce or remember.”
So, as I do most times, “Hamamatsu,” I answered. And then, I added, “YAMAHA (musical instruments) and Honda (motorcycles/automobile) were both founded here.”

Although I lived in Tokyo/Yokohama for many years to go to college and for work, Hamamatsu is my hometown.

02_Rapeseed_MisakoOba_1549One of the friends suggested to post some photos or write something about it. Flowers are not my typical subjects. (I am often drawn to lights. Lights in the sky or in the cities. The previous photographic series has also something to do with lights.)

However, when I drove out near my parents house, unexpectedly I found the Nanohana (Rapeseed blossoms) field, which I never knew before. It is a little out of place to me but I felt happy to encounter it!

So, the next day, I took my old parents there. They knew this place. Still they were happy to see it this year.
03_Rapeseed_MisakoOba_1545I see myself as a visitor, although I spent my childhood here. The city is not small and pretty busy (Population: 810, 000.). Like Seattle, Hamamatsu has both urban and nature. In fact, Seattle is really like Japan, especially Hamamatsu to me. It is a quite big city and has easy access to nature. The Mt. Rainier looks like Mt. Fuji. (When I saw Mt. Fuji this time, my head recognized it as Mt. Rainer for the first glance.) There is water such as big rivers and ocean nearby. Humidity.

A lot of my old friends are here and came back after they lived in Tokyo, or other areas, for a few or more years. Typically, my high school friends would re-connect for New Year’s. I joined a New Year’s party a couple years ago for the first time in a long time. It was fun, refreshing and easy to re-connect, even with some old friends who I haven’t talked with for a long time. You may have a similar experience.

While I still feel it is like a home in Hamamatsu because there is a physical home here, I often feel more home and feel relaxed when I flew back to New York or Seattle. When you move a lot and live in different cities or countries, it becomes hard to feel like I belong – wherever you have lived or currently live. Strangely, this feeling is even from my childhood. So, I decided to belong to the earth while living, and to heaven after die.

MisakoOba_GalaxyDetail_c MisakoOba_TheOtherSide_cRI am always reminded of culture difference each time I travel between Japan and the U.S., even right after arriving at each airport. I travel often but I still very much feel the difference of people and culture each time in the East Coast, West Coast in the U.S., Europe and Japan. I feel convinced to adjust myself accordingly and respectfully. Not only languages, but also my behavior. Otherwise, it would be rude. (Ok, I have to admit my voice is a bit too loud for Japanese people, even when try not to be. I use more hand gestures than the average Japanese person by nature… ; )

I actually crave for studio time. I can work on my art here as well, but the space is very limited and the house is too clean to get it dirty with paints. So I am instead focusing on other things and work. Writing or seeing different landscape or scenery is good for your soul and new ideas. Or just feeling relaxed. Talking with new or old friends is a bit challenging for me at first (-Some people would say I don’t show it, and while I’m not shy talking with people in a professional setting, I have found myself introverted in a way), but always ends up enjoying.

I am looking forward to going to see Hamamatsu Festival this year on May 3-5 after being away for a long time. If you have a chance to visit Japan around this season, you may want to experience the festival. The last time I went was 2005 when I came to visit to make the photographic series of Fire Flies – Japan that was inspired by Hamamatsu Festival.

This year, I will simply enjoy. You don’t have to feel guilty. Happy Golden Week!

Time You Enjoy Wasting is Not Wasted.

 * Quote by John Lennon. The same or similar saying has been attributed to Bertrand Russell, Marthe Troly-Curtin and others.


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Text in My Work and Something about Chagall

For some years now, I have been employing text in a number of my works and series.

The recent works have something to do with stars, the Milky Way and deserts.  To see a couple of works, please visit my previous post or the album of [Printmaking/ Intaglio2] on Facebook Page. 

In those pieces, the text is very subtle and in an abstract way. Yet, there is meaning.

01text_MisakoOba_MilkyWay2Detail_Three           “Milky Way #2” (details). Collagraph with carborundum and beeswax (mixed media), Misako Oba.
* The whole piece “Milky Way #2 (diptych)” can be viewed in Drawn to Stars, Behind the Scene.

Je te bénirai et je multiplierai ta postérité, comme les étoiles du ciel et comme le sable qui est sur le bord de la mer; et ta postérité possédera la porte de ses ennemis. -Genèse 22:17
I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,  -Genesis 22:17 

MilkyWay3_byMisakoOba              “Milky Way #3” (a and b), Collagraph with carborundum and beeswax, unique,  Misako Oba

 le mystère des sept étoiles que tu as vues dans ma main droite, et des sept chandeliers d’or. -Apocalypse 1:20
The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the…   -Revelation 1:20

03MisakoOba_Desert2_1200c           “Desert #3” (diptych: a+b).  Collagraph with carborundum and beeswax, unique, Misako Oba

Une voix crie: Préparez au désert le chemin de l’Éternel, Aplanissez dans les lieux arides Une route pour notre Dieu. Que toute vallée soit exhaussée, Que toute montagne et toute colline soient abaissées! Que les coteaux se changent en plaines, Et les défilés étroits en vallons!  -Ésaïe 40:3, 4
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.   -Isaiah 40:3, 4 

04MisakoOba_Springs Forth_c2   “Springs Forth” from Desert series, Collagraph with carborundum & Encaustic monotype
(Mixed media), unique, Misako Oba. The text is in lower right corner.
StreamInDesert2_byMisakoOba_ArrowStreamInDesert2_detail3_byMisakoOBA   “Stream in the Desert #2”  Collagraph with carborundum & beeswax and Encaustic monotype,
(Mixed media), variation 2 of 6, each unique, Misako Oba
StreamInDesert4_Detail_byMisakoOBA_da“Stream in the Desert #4” (detail),  Collagraph with carborundum & beeswax, etching and
encaustic monotype, variation 4 of 6, each unique, Misako Oba
* The whole piece of #4 can be viewed in here.

Ne pensez plus aux événements passés,
Et ne considérez plus ce qui est ancien.
 Voici, je vais faire une chose nouvelle,
sur le point d’arriver: Ne la connaîtrez-vous pas?
Je mettrai un chemin dans le désert,
Et des fleuves dans la solitude.
 -Ésaïe 43:18,19
Remember not the former things,

nor consider the things of old.
   Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
  I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.  -Isaiah 43:18, 19

 When I was thinking if I should move from New York to Seattle, this verse (Isaiah 43:18, 19) came up to me three times within a week. One of my friends referred it directly to me. The phrase even happened to show up in my Newsfeed on Facebook. And, more… It was a mysterious, spiritual and amazing experience. And in fact, there were “rivers” and a “way” that were prepared for me before my move. I feel grateful.

Things are very different in the Pacific Northwest from New York City, or even just the East Coast. People, culture, customs, weather, nature…and more. I feel creative inspiration a little more when I am in an unfamiliar environment. You can find the inspiration in daily life, though. Having easier access to nature became a part of my daily life. It is coming along as the series of mixed media and intaglio – such as the work of stars and desert.

Marc Chagall and the Bible

Recently, I noticed that Marc Chagall (1887-1985) also did the printmaking (Etchings and Lithographs) based on the Bible.  He worked on the series of etchings over a 25 year period.

Marc Chagall1Marc Chagall © ARS, NY, Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams, 1957, The Bible, no. 22. Hand-colored etching, The Patrick and Beatrice Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University, Milwaukee.

I cannot compare myself with Chagall. He is a great master in art history and he illustrated the Bible. You can find more of his works and bio here as well.

The Approach to my Art Series and the Bible

My approach is different. I use a visual metaphor based on my personal experience on this earth, and employ the universal human emotions (positive or negative) and objects or locations that we encounter in our lives: forgiveness, deception, grieves, trust, love, eat and drink, stars, desert…

I visualize, think over the meaning, research, apply, synchronize my emotion/experience and then create the image in a semi-abstract form.

I am grateful that I came across the idea that is somehow connected to what he did in his work. He is one of my favorite artists. And I am also thankful that our approach is different.

I was born and raised in Japan, but lived and spent many years in Western culture as well. So, my thoughts, culture background, and philosophy have become very complex.

In my encaustic mixed media series, Truth in Emotion “Beyond Time and Space,” I am incorporating Hyakunin Isshu (百人一首), the collection of 100 Japanese ancient poems called Waka. The text is from 7-11th Century in Japan, and calligraphy in Eastern culture. In my other mixed media series and Intaglio I am incorporating verses from the Bible, that is originally under Western influence.

Both are relating human conditions and emotion through life that we can be connected to even in the modern society. Life is a journey.  That is the body of my artwork that I have been pursuing.


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Drawn to Stars

I was walking on the street in Seattle the other night. I was rushing but looked up at the sky and noticed a couple of stars in between the cracks of clouds. Deep blue-black sky and white clouds. It was too bright to see the stars because the street was lit with the lights of homes. Yet, the stars were visible and I just felt moved by the simple beauty.

I have been attracted to things that shine, twinkle, glitter, sparkle, glisten, gleam…and a number of my works including previous photographic series (Sample 1 (Blue Fireflies), 1b and 2 (El Camino)) reflect both natural and artificial light(s).

In recent years, I have found myself drawn to stars…and sometimes the moon.

01MisakoOba_MilkyWay3ab_900“The Milky Way #2” (diptych). Collagraph with carborundum and beeswax (mixed media), Misako Oba

Those are very recent works. The concept was developed last summer and I just started to create the works this year. Works on paper, silk, canvas or wood panels. It is on-going the series.

The work is very reflective of Seattle and its sounding areas. When I am in Tokyo or New York, I don’t even think about the stars or sunset. It’s interesting to see a lot of people in Seattle care about the sunset and nature, and would say, “You can see a beautiful sunset this evening.” Or “Today, you can see the mountains.” They would be excited and I AM very excited since I had lived in such big cities with not much nature or visible stars.

Milky Way#2b detail by Misako Oba           “The Milky Way #2” (detail)

Seattle is such a beautiful city that has BOTH nature and an urban element. Olympic mountains behind the Space needle, and high-rise buildings near various lakes. What excites me is that I can see nature and the urban city together in the SAME frame. Especially in good weather, it is breathtaking. I will never be tired of viewing this type of scenery.

I wanted to show you the beauty by photographing the scene. However, I know photographs don’t always capture the reality. The photos can be more beautiful (..yes you can do that…) or less beautiful than the actual scene you see, and I don’t want to ruin what you can see for yourself on the spot. There are feelings, temperatures, and breezes on your cheek kind of things too. Also, the scene changes in a moment depending on the angles, weather and/or light. So, you must see it yourself by coming to visit. I fell in love with the city when I first visited. Yes, Seattle has much rain, but I found it mostly just drizzling. Unlike rain in New York with stormy winds – in most cases breaking my umbrella. Poeople in Seattle don’t even use umbrellas.

People can go to be in nature easily on a weekend, or even after work. If you drive just 30 minutes from downtown Seattle, you can find yourself be in beautiful nature. What a luxury!

Desert #3-a by Misako Oba “Desert #3-a” or b, Collagraph with carborundum and beeswax (mixed media), Misako Oba

And by driving a little further, you can encounter the beauty of God’s creation: forest, desert, open sky with lots of stars at night. I haven’t had much chance to see those yet, so hopefully I would like to explore more. But, I did see the Milky Way for the first time in my life in Eastern Washington. It was not quite as visible since there was a bright moon and it was not summer. However, it was still slightly visible with the naked eye! And as a city person, I was like “wow….” Like a child.

The Milky Way#1 by Misako Oba “The Milky Way #1”  Collagraph with carborundum (mixed media), Misako Oba
Water and Desert (detail) by Misako Oba     “Water and Desert” (details) Collagraph with carborundum and beeswax (mixed media), Misako Oba

In the future blog, I will talk about the text and technique that I employed.

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When You Don’t Feel Inspired… (Story from Chuck Close)

What would you do when you don’t feel motivated?
Or the time you don’t feel inspired – for work or for anything else you need to do?

Do I always feel motivated or inspired to create artwork?
– No. I sometimes feel unmotivated or just don’t feel like creating in the studio.

A lot of people might think creating art is just fun. Maybe, some fortunate artists feel this way all the time. And that’s great. For me, however, while I enjoy choosing the materials and such, once I start working on a project, perhaps only 5% of my time is fun. The remaining 95% I feel is work. A lot of unorganized thoughts, or many different ideas and techniques which are still not in order in my head, would leave me frustrated. When I am in the process of putting my projects together, or when I have multiple projects/tasks with tight deadlines all at once, I feel like procrastinating. And this makes me feel unmotivated or uninspired even though I have high expectations and anticipation for the finished pieces. The whole process creates very complex emotions.

Once I’ve made up my mind with exactly what I want to do and the results please me, I feel excited and eventually happy. I would lose my mind or immerse myself in the process. When I see the completed piece in my studio, at galleries, or in a collectors’ hand, it feels great!

We do things that we enjoy and interest us in the beginning. However, soon after, the passion may be doomed. Life is much more challenging and rewarding when we stick with something over years or decades. Work, relationships, activities and everything important to us requires efforts and patience.

It is good to have inspiration, or try to be inspired. However, when we are not inspired, we can get  stuck. What should we do then? CBS aired a segment called “Note to Self” which featured a letter that Chuck Close wrote to his younger self. It contains great reminders in life, whether you’re an artist or not, that I found very interesting, uplifting and encouraging.

elow are the two that stand out as my favorites:

“Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. Every great idea I ever had grew out of work itself.”

“You don’t have to invent a wheel everyday. Today you do what you did yesterday. Tomorrow you do what you do today. Eventually you will get somewhere.”

These quotes make me feel relieved and believe in what I’m doing. In fact, Chuck’s comments make me feel more creative. It is OK if we don’t feel inspired all the time. And even when you don’t feel like you can keep going, just SHOW UP and GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY!

Additional quotes from the Chuck Close special:

“Never let anyone define what you are capable of by using parameters that don’t apply to you.”

“Sign on to a process and see where it takes you.”

“If you overwhelmed by the size of problem, break it down to a mini-bite size pieces.”

“Everyone needs to feel special.”

“Absolute the worse thing can happen to you, and when you get past it, you will be happy again.”

Chuck Close is a American painter and photographer, who lives and works in New York. He is renowned for large-scale portraitures/human faces through photography and varied inventive drawing and painting techniques, and recognized as a photorealists. He mentioned the encounter with a Jackson Pollock painting at the Seattle Art Museum at the age of 11, influenced him and changed his perspective from what he thought art was. He has a B.A. from the University of Washington and received his MFA from Yale University in 1964. One of his best known subjects from that period was composer Philip Glass, whose portrait Close painted. Later in 2005, Glass wrote a musical portrait of Close. Chuck Close’s recent series features 20 Hollywood stars without make-up or airbrushing. You can find the collection in the 2014 Vanity Fair Hollywood Portfolio issue (on stands February 11th).

I knew some of his work before I saw this video. Yet, I didn’t know he suffered a seizure which left him paralyzed from the neck down, and now relies on a wheelchair for his mobility. Compared with him, my physical suffering of numbness and pain in my cheek, as well as nerve and phantom pain that were aftereffects from the loss of my right pinkie, seem lighter to me. I now feel more connected to his story – as an artist and simply as a person. Unexpected events or a stagnant situation (being unmotivated) can happen to anyone.

You can change your perspective anytime. It’s all up to you.

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