A Million Colorful Threads

Tenri Cultural Institute, in addition to its language school, concerts, and various other cultural events, hosts an art gallery that is always home to a variety of incredible exhibitions ranging from demonstrations of traditional Japanese techniques to innovative displays of multinational modern art. I’ve spotlighted several past showings, including the multinational Ink Imagists exhibition and Chika MacDonald’s Mugen exhibit.

Here I’ll be sharing thoughts on the currently showing “12 Years” exhibit.




Nobuko Tsuruta has been doing SAORI, a Japanese art that embraces irregularities and uniqueness of freestyle hand weaving, for the exhibition’s titular “12 Years.” There’s wonderful variety showcased in her art. From stark, striking black and whites to gloriously colorful compositions in forms ranging from traditional tapestries and clothing to more inventive and abstract pieces using a wide array of fibers and other materials.



Beyond the surface intricacies and beauty, an underlying contemplative aspect to Nobuko’s textiles that adds emotional impact to her pieces. In her candid and genuine profile, she shares fascinating insight into weaving as meditation and accepting all aspects of herself, including “negative thoughts” and her “own vanity, ego, competitiveness and pessimism,” into the creative process and her art.




The centerpiece of 12 Years is a breathtaking floor to ceiling tapestry entitled “Requiem.” It’s absolutely gorgeous, with shimmering gold interwoven with splashes of vibrant colors. There’s something powerful and evocative beneath the surface, and a placard nearby explains the deep meaning behind it.



Requiem was created while a fellow member of Tsuruta’s Saroi studio was hospitalized and subsequently passed away due to terminal cancer. It’s “intended to connect the Heaven and Earth, a bridge connecting the spirit of the people who died to we, the living.”

Nobuko’s dedicated Requiem to lost loved ones, including Tenri Gallery’s curator Kazuko Takizawa, who also passed from cancer a month ago. Kazuko’s love of art and infectious enthusiasm were apparent every time I saw her, and Requiem is a wonderful tribute to someone greatly missed.





Rounding out the exhibit are striking photographs of people wearing Nobuko’s creations. They provide a nice compliment to the pieces on display, and the entire exhibition makes great use of the gallery space to really highlight and heighten the visual impact of Nobuko’s work.



12 Years runs until Wednesday, March 29, and is another excellent exhibit at Tenri well worth going to see in person.



Holiday Celebration with Glimpses of Past and Future Art Exhibitions

In addition to Tenri Cultural Institute‘s language school and numerous cultural events,  it hosts an art gallery that is always home to a variety of wonderful exhibitions ranging from traditional Japanese techniques to innovative multinational displays of modern art. I previously shared my thoughts on the June 2016 exhibitthe multinational Ink Imagists exhibition, and Chika MacDonald’s Mugen exhibit.

The exhibitions themselves are of course incredible, but Tenri usually also has an opening reception attended by the artists and sometimes featuring extra attractions such as live demonstrations or musical performances. The December 15th opening for Tenri’s Holiday Art Show (which ran from December 10th to the 22nd) was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.



A special treat at the reception was a fantastic assortment of hand made chocolate by Kanami Chocolate Brooklyn. As impressive visually as in taste and nicely diverse in flavor and texture, the treats were absolutely delicious.



The exhibition was a great collection of work from a mix of both artists who have had previous shows at Tenri and ones with upcoming exhibitions.



It was a wonderful snapshot of the diversity of artistic styles featured at the gallery, with numerous different techniques and styles on display. From more traditional art to three dimensional work and even a enclosed relaxation “retreat” there was a multitude of interesting things to see and experience.




Several of the artists were in attendance and happily interacting with visitors. I was happy to have the opportunity to catch up with my friend Chika MacDonald, who in addition to provding two gorgeous pieces for the show in the similar to those showcased in her Mugen exhibit wore a shawl with an beautiful image in the same vein on the back.



It was also great to meet Alex Kukai Shinohara and discuss his work a bit, which told parallel stories of a gallery exhibit with text elements and striking three dimensional frames forming art pieces within his art pieces.



Near the end of the reception there was a short shamisen and vocal  performance by Sumie Kaneko. Her music is lovely and I recommend checking out the longer performances she has at Tenri and other venues, such as her Dec 23rd show at Club Bonafide on 52nd street.


As always I highly recommend checking out the wonderful art that Tenri Gallery showcases, but in addition if you are able to attend the receptions you’ll enjoy a wonderfully relaxed and fun social event as well.

Mythical Dragons Captured on Cloth

In addition to Tenri Cultural Institute‘s language school and numerous cultural events,  it hosts an art gallery that is always home to a variety of wonderful exhibitions ranging from traditional Japanese techniques to innovative multinational displays of modern art. I previously shared my thoughts on the June 2016 exhibit, and the multinational Ink Imagists exhibition. Here I’ll be spotlighting the currently showing Mugen exhibit.


The centerpieces of artist Chika MacDonald’s textile exhibit are her majestic dragons.

Inspired by a desire to convey feelings of support and hope in dark times in a way that also celebrated Japanese culture and heritage, she embraced the idea of creating art featuring dragons rising or lurking just below some sort of horizon as symbolic guides to a better future. Her dragons are all either looking or moving towards the sun or sky, or facing outward to engage the viewer directly as a reminder and challenge to live in the present while keeping hope for tomorrow.


MacDonald’s first piece, showing a dragon guiding several monarch butterflies (that could be seen as representing souls) towards the heavens.

The vivd colors and images she achieves are just INCREDIBLE. A lot of her backgrounds are darker colors to both provide great contrast for the subject of the piece as well as represent her previously mentioned themes of hope in the face of despair, yet she still manages to give those dark colors phenomenal vibrance through eye-catching hues.

MacDonald’s dragons are wonderfully distinctive, with carefully done gradations of color in the dyeing and beautiful, intricate details and highlights often in striking metallics that give the tapestries an extra feeling of dimension when they catch the light. They stand out against her deeply colored backgrounds and the combinations come to life in a powerfully evocative way.

I had the privilege of being shown around the exhibit by MacDonald and having her explain various aspects of her art, including some of the details I’ve shared above concerning her inspiration and what she hopes to express through her works. She is extremely friendly and excited about her craft, and it was a joy to discuss it with her. I was quite surprised to discover this is her first exhibit, as the level of detail and vitality achieved in her work belies her level of experience.


Another highlight Mugen is a gorgeous kimono, the last piece to be finished for this exhibit. It showcases a water element as appropriate to Japanese dragons and has a distinct, powerful horizon separating sea from sky to again emphasize the dragon’s positioning and alignment towards the heavens.


Beyond just the obvious quality and how visually stunning MacDonald’s pieces are, the exhibit shows an impressive amount of diversity. Differing colors, compositions, and atmospheres highlight each and every piece on display. I love depictions of these types of dragons when done well, and MacDonald’s are fantastic.

In addition, Mugen contains several floral pieces by MacDonald that match the dragons in feel and style and integrate into the exhibit seamlessly. Several of them are done in limited color fashion, which works well in highlighting and conveying the delicate nature of the depicted flowers.

In a fantastic finishing touch, MacDonald decided to supplement her textiles and paintings by asking friends to develop complementary jewelry and scents. A few small vials with delicate scents are placed among the exhibit and can be smelled by visitors, and a pedestal in the center of the gallery show a variety of striking, intricately crafted dragon and floral bracelets and necklaces. These elements, along with a sense of connectivity and progression in MacDonald’s work, bring everything together and give Mugen a real feeling of being a cohesive, complete exhibit.


Photo with artist Chika MacDonald in front of her (and my) favorite piece of the exhibit.

There is an opening reception tonight (Friday November 4) from 6 to 8pm, and the exhibit will be open until Tuesday November 8.

Definitely catch Mugen at Tenri Cultural Institute in NYC if you can. These works of art need to been seen in person to be properly appreciated, and MacDonald will be present for the entirety of the exhibition. I highly recommend taking advantage of the opportunities to not only see this phenomenal art on to display, but also to meet this gifted artist and gain some insight into her process.

A Personal Piece of Magic: Perna Studios APs

Last Fall I wrote about the wonderful card sets available from Perna Studios,  and now I’d like to focus on/share an associated part of the sets: Artist’s Proofs (APs). Sketch cards are a often used form of “chase card” for art related collectible card sets, where the various artists involved in a set get blank cards with the card set’s printed back and create one of a kind art directly on the cards, which are then inserted randomly in card packs. The skills shown in painting and drawing on such a small workspace and the amount of detail achieved is incredible.

AP sketch cards are a similar creation. Artists sometimes get a few of these blank cards designated as Artist Proofs to sell themselves and create specifically for the purchaser (with subject matter appropriate to the related set and subject to publisher approval). As directly commissioned art the prices are generally higher than buying packs/sets in trade off for getting to choose the artist and having input into the subject/design.

The wonderful painted pieces Ingrid Hardy does on these relatively tiny trading cards always amazes me, and the first AP I got was from her for the Classic Fairy Tales set and features Red Riding Hood. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I can’t imagine a better design. I tend to be rather unspecific when commissioning these cards, usually just asking for a particular subject and letting the artist go from there. I’ve always been extremely pleased with the results.

It can be fun to get APs from different artists reflecting the same general subject. I collect grim reaper art when it comes to the Hallowe’en sets, so had both Ingrid Hardy and Kokkinakis Achilleas do APs featuring him for Hallowe’en 2. Both are fantastic representations capturing a sense of foreboding, with Ingrid’s reaper having an atmospheric, looming edge to it and Kokkinakis’ an active feel showcasing the dynamic style and coloring his work is know for.

I’d already gotten some excellent grim reaper sketch cards from Hallowe’en 2 by Alexis Hill and Peejay Catacutan, so went in different directions with their APs. I find Alexis’s style absolutely perfect for the halloween theme and the witch AP I got from her is a wonderful addition to all the gorgeous sketch cards I have of hers from the set.

With Peejay I floated the general idea of either a succubus or a witch, and he sent me a few pencil rough ideas. I loved the above succubus design as well as his imaginative idea to do a Japanese folklore inspired witch so much I commissioned both, and the final cards brought those rough ideas to life gloriously.

Depending on the set, the permitted subjects can be rather wide or extremely specific. For example, Classic Fairy Tales and Hallowe’en 2 allowed anything related to the titular theme (within normal Perna guidelines), while Spellcasters 2 had a subtheme of specific magical creatures, so all cards (base, sketch, inserts, and APs) from that set had to feature mermaids, unicorns, elves, fairies, or dragons. In either case, there is plenty of room for individual style and visions and both the variety and quality of work Pernas’ chosen artists produce is incredible.

I wrote about being a longtime fan of Juri Chinchilla in Beautiful Dreams, and I was lucky enough to get one of her APs from Spellcasters II. She did a great piece of art for a metal insert for the set that she referred to as “evil mermaid.” Inspired by that work, I requested an “evil fairy” for my AP, and received the gorgeous card above titled Red Moon. Juri’s soft yet vibrant colors are breathtaking, and I adore the fact that even leaning against a skull and clearly planning something sinister, her fairy still has a touch of cuteness to it.

The entire concept of evil fairies amuses me greatly, and so has become my theme for other APs for Spellcasters II, including the dark, regal looking fairy Peejay drew above that has a wonderful layered effect with the skull providing a visual second set of wings. I have two more coming, from the previously mentioned Ingrid Hardy and Alexis Hill. Can’t wait. 🙂

The coloring and detail on Norvien Basio’s cards in general is incredible, and my jaw literally dropped when I saw the vibrant mermaid AP he did for me.

Sometimes artists will choose their own subject for an AP and sell the completed pieces rather than commission the card. Such was the case with the butterfly fairy I got from Sean Pence. This couldn’t have been a more perfect card for me if I had requested the subject, showing a delicate, serene subject with Sean’s trademark ability to draw exquisite, realistic feeling faces even within a fantasy setting.


Of course there are MANY more phenomenal artists featured in Perna Studios’ sets and anyone with an interest in high quality fantastical art collectibles should definitely check out their offerings and/or check in with the artists about commissioning an AP.



Amazing Ink Creations from Three Countries

Tenri Cultural Institute hosts a variety of wonderful cultural events,  including frequent art shows which often open with live demonstrations. I recently shared my impressions of the June exhibitions, and here I’ll be spotlighting the incredible INK IMAGISTS exhibit that will be showing throughout July.

One of the most interesting things about this exhibition is the scope and cooperation involved. It features ink creations by eight different artists from Taiwan, Japan, and the United States, marking the first collaborative show of this type featuring all three countries. The diversity in techniques and approaches to the same medium are fascinating, and every painting shown had something unique and wonderful to contribute.

During the opening there was a live painting demonstration by Taiwanese artist Huang Chien-Lun done on one of the gallery pillars. It was wonderful to get to watch her creation being made.

Later I had an opportunity to speak briefly with her about her other pieces on display (via a translator). She was extremely friendly and it was great to have her share some insight about her paintings and their inspiration. All the artists were excitedly mingling and talking with the attendees, and the opening was a fun, energetic event.


Ink is an incredibly versatile medium, and I was impressed with how strongly that was illustrated here. The variety in style, technique, and composition was fantastic. The collection ranged from beautifully stark black and white creations to striking limited palette works to vibrant full color pieces, and featured subjects ranging from the precise and realistic to the abstract and imaginative and covered several gradations in between.


Not only do these works of art need to been seen in person to be properly appreciated, but I’ve given just a small sampling of the amazing pieces on display. Also, the curator mentioned that there is more to this exhibit than can be accommodated at once, and so some paintings will be cycled in later in the exhibition.

I highly encourage anyone who gets the chance to see INK IMAGISTS now through July 30, 2016 at Tenri Cultural Institute in NYC.


A Constant Spotlight on Japanese Art in NYC

Tenri Cultural Institute hosts a variety of wonderful concerts and other cultural events, including frequent art shows which sometimes include live demonstrations. I’ve been lucky enough to attend several, and wanted to share my impressions of the June exhibitions.

Flower Garden by Eri Komiyama

Flower Garden ran from June 2nd to 7th and there couldn’t have been a more fitting title for the exhibit. Eri Komiyama’s tapestries were amazing representations of a great variety of vibrant flowers with complimentary background colors to appropriately highlight the subjects of each work. She combines a trio of traditional dying techniques to create these intricate, highly detailed images that are as beautiful as the flowers they depict. Every single tapestry on display was just stunning.


More information about Eri Komiyama and her art can be found here.

Silence and Movement by Yuriko Tateishi

Unfortunately I forgot my camera on the night of the opening of Silence and Movement (which ran from June 8th until the 14th), which is a shame because there was an incredible live demonstration by Yuriko Tateishi. She first wrote a poem on a sheer sheet/curtain, showing an amazingly deft touch to write so beautifully on such thin, loose material. She then demonstrated a different application of her art, drawing a single character with a huge brush on a sheet of paper nearly as large as the sheet she did the poem on. It was fascinating watching the skill and craft on display as she created her art.


Tateishi’s stark, stylistic creations are gorgeous. I later had the opportunity to talk with her a bit (with translation help from a friend). She is wonderfully gracious and friendly, and it was fascinating getting to hear a little about the particulars of her art (such as the necessity of using her entire body in the writing process as opposed to just her arm) and have her explain the meanings of the characters she had drawn on the beautiful fans available for purchase.


More information about Yuriko Tateishi and her art can be found here.

Fusion of Japanese Calligraphy and Painting by Rihaku Inoue & Koichi Terai

The current exhibition (ending June 21st) is a creative combination of painting and calligraphy. I was again lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the opening and see a live demonstration (and even remembered my camera this time 🙂 ). Inoue’s grace and artistry was a pleasure to watch as she wrote over Terai’s colorful paintings.

The collaborative element of the art is exquisite. Terai’s evocative paintings blend color to phenomenal effect and are the perfect compliment to Inoue’s striking calligraphy over top of them. The separate elements come together seamlessly into gorgeous finished pieces.



More information about Rihaku Inoue and Kochi Terai and their art can be found here.


I thoroughly enjoyed all of the above exhibits, and they are just a small sample of the incredible art and experiences Tenri Cultural Institute brings into the heart of NYC.

Art Can Be Made From Anything: The Incredible Work of Red Hong Yi


A while back I happened upon an article that featured an amazing portrait of Jackie Chan made from chopsticks. The imagination and skill on display were incredible. That was my first exposure to the art of Red Hong Yi, and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.


Photo from redhongyi.com

Red has done many more amazing works created from unusual materials, from using tea bags to painting with a basketball or celery stalks. All are well worth looking up. For this blog I’m going to concentrate on the projects of hers I was lucky enough to be a part of or see in person.


Art for Nepal

Red has done a number of projects recently focused on compassion and being meaningful. The first that caught my eye was shortly after the Nepal Earthquake, when she decided to make use of her desire to more cartoon style ink drawings to raise money for the victims. Donations were made directly to World Vision Australia, and Red did 100 A5 size drawings of subjects of the commissioners choice. I had one done of my niece and nephew with Skylanders characters (as they’re both big fans). It came out fantastic and they were very happy with the results. 🙂 I was thrilled to have been a part of the project for such a great cause, and admire Red greatly for coming up with such a wonderful way to involve her fans and for all the work she did for this.

Free to Be

My “involvement” in the Free to Be concert was limited to getting one of the commemorative t-shirts with a personalized message from Red on the back, but it was another wonderful project centered around an important cause. The event in Melbourne was held to raise money to fight human trafficking, and Red did a live painting (her first) with duo Big Picture Stuff during the three hour concert.


100 Meaningful Things

Early in 2015 Red posted on Facebook about the impact and meaning of objects and asked people to share photos and stories about their most meaningful objects. All kinds of wonderful stories and items were shared, including heirlooms and numerous other types of things bearing personal significance. I loved the idea and thought a bit about what type of thing to share. I decided on something that was tied to a specific memory, as well as being representative of several aspects of my life.


I shared the above photo and wrote: “I’m going to go with my copy of Dream Hunters. I’ve been a lifelong comic book fan. It’s influenced me a great deal creatively and I have wonderful memories of getting into it via random packs my parents would get me. This particular book is done by two of my favorite creators, and during my first year in NYC I spent 5 hours in line with two of my best friends to get it signed (which included a sketch from the artist on the spot). We had a surprisingly good time for such a long wait, and the creators were still gracious and going strong 3+ hours after their advertised time. So it has a lot of memories attached, is a unique piece of my collection, and represents both my hobbies and the place that has become my new home for many years.”

It was a great to read the various stories from everyone and stood out in my mind as a wonderful activity.


Photo from redhongyi.com

At the end of 2015 Red turned this wonderful activity of sharing into something even greater during the exhibition 100 Meaningful Things. She chose 100 stories and (with each person’s permission) created an exhibit where photos of the person and their object along with the story were attached to white balloons floating at various heights. For me this couldn’t have been done any better. The exhibit was beautiful in its simplicity and was structured to encourage interactivity as viewers read the shared stories. I was thrilled when contacted about having mine included.


Photo of goofy looking me and my item for the exhibition.


Red working on “Girl” for an exhibition at UNIQLO.

Boy and Girl

The last project I’ll talk about here happened just this past Friday. As part of UNIQLO’s “sock week” (yes, really 🙂 ) they had Red come to their first store in NY and create an exhibit using socks. There was a meet and greet to open the exhibit, during which we got to see the final little bit finished then meet and chat with Red.

As usual I was amazed with the creativity of her vision and it was quite interesting to watch her work on it. Continuing the theme signed pairs of socks were handed out. I really like the piece and will be stopping by next week to see the companion work (which had installation issues at the time and wasn’t available for viewing).


Getting to finally meet her in person was of course awesome. I had a wonderful time and it was fascinating to get to chat with her about her projects.


Beyond just the unusual nature of the materials she uses, Red’s art is marked with outstanding creativity in vision as well. I adore her work and look forward to see what she has in store going forward. 🙂