Artist Residency in Japan
September 8 - December 8, 1999
Jane was selected as one of six international
Lucy Yegros, Paraguay
Mejra Mujicic, Croatia
Jane Ingram Allen, U.S.A.
Yumiko Yamazaki, Japan
Pino Barilla, Italy
Louise Giamari, France
Yoshihisa Hasegawa, Japan
Artists for the Paper Art Village Project each year are selected by a committee of art professionals after reviewing applications and slides. The residency award provides travel expenses, accommodations in Japan, studio space and materials to make artwork with Japanese handmade paper. The artists in the program represent all media, and all use paper in some way in their work. Jane is the only artist in the group who has experience making paper.
During the residency, artists create works using Japanese handmade paper. They have been learning papermaking from masters at the the Mino Washi Museum. The Museum has an excellent facility with good equipment for teaching and production of handmade paper. The kozo fiber used in Mino paper is very unique and different from Western papermaking fibers, and it is possible to make thin sheets and have them remain very strong.
During her residency Jane made a large installation work called "Turning Over a New Leaf". It is made of Japanese handmade paper, acrylic paints, horse hair string, and mesh fabric. This picture is of her studio at the Paper Village. She making the work on the table with over 2000 handmade paper leaves, red on one side and green on the other. This work will be shipped to Jane in New York after the exhibition at the Mino Washi Museum and shown in New York City at Snug Harbor Cultural Center as part of the "Elements 2000" exhibition. Click here for more information about this exhibition.
Jane also made a public art installation during her residency, continuing her "Bird Watching" series of outdoor installation of multiple bird forms. Jane's work "Bird Watching in Japan" contains 28 bird sculptures arranged as a site-specific installation on the Mino Bridge, the oldest suspension bridge in Japan. The bridge is sort of like a miniature Brooklyn Bridge and is used only for pedestrian and bicycle traffic now. The birds are made of Japanese kozo fiber paper over a wire armature, painted with acrylic paints and coated with polyurethane for outdoor use. The installation will remain on view in Japan.
Another work Jane made during her residency used some very thin, transparent Mino paper to create an installation called "Different Views," composed of multiple suspended maps showing the world from different viewpoints. The work was inspired by the map on the wall in the bedroom where Jane slept. Instead of the world Jane was used to seeing-with America in the center- it was a map of the world with Japan in the center, very large, and the U.S. very small and almost off the page on the right. Jane's map installation was also influenced by books that Jane has showing satellite maps of the earth and views of earth taken by astronauts in orbit around the earth. The map pieces are made with very thin kozo fiber paper which has bits of horsehair and horsehair thread in it. The map images are drawn/painted with acrylic paint and look very interesting with light coming through the thin paper showing the contrasting transparent and opaque areas. The map installation "Different Views" will become part of the Mino City permanent collection and remain in Japan.
One of the goals of the Mino City Paper Art Village Project is to develop relationships between foreign and domestic artists and the people of Mino. Mino City is one of the main centers of traditional papermaking in Japan and has abundant kozo fiber. The artists all learn about Japanese papermaking and make works with Japanese paper during their residency. The artists all exhibit work made during the residency at the Mino Washi Museum at the end of the residency and also donate at least one work to the permanent collection of Mino City.
Mino City, is a very traditional community with approximately 60,000 people. It is located 45 km from Nagoya, the third largest city in Japan. Mino is in the area where traditional Japanese handmade paper is still being made my master craftsmen. Mino is in a scenic mountainous area with the Nagara River famous for using cormorant birds for fishing. Mino is also known for its excellent examples of traditional Udatsu architecture as well as Mino Paper, recognized by the Japanese government as an Important Intangible Cultural Heritage.
During her three month’s stay in Japan, Jane lived with a local family, Yasoe and Yasumi Murai and their two daughters Akiko and Takayo. Jane also learned many Japanese customs and even some of the language. In this photo, Jane is walking the family dog along one of the beautiful rivers near her home.
Jane learned to like Japanese food and tried many new and interesting things such as eel and octopus and many other things she never knew what they were! The diet in Japan is very different with lots of vegetables and tofu and fish, even fish for breakfast. Jane got very good with chop sticks, 'hashi", even picking up tofu. The artists went to many parties in people's homes, and all had much fun with delicious food and lots of sake and Japanese beer. Here is a photo showing the party at the home of Mr. Watanabe, an artist himself who was a great technical advisor for all of the artists in the Project...he also did the design and installation of our exhibition at the Mino Washi Museum.
Language was the biggest challenge in Japan for Jane and the other artists. There were several volunteer translators who spoke some English and were very helpful in communication. Few people in Mino speak English, let alone the Italian and French. The artist from Italy spoke only Italian, and the artists from Paraguay and Croatia could speak some Italian. The artist from France only spoke French, and Jane can speak some French. When the artists were having their lessons from the Japanese papermaking masters who spoke only Japanese, it was a bit difficult to communicate to everyone. There were a lot of hand signals.
Jane’s husband Tim joined her in Japan during October for two weeks, and they traveled to Nagoya and Kyoto. While in Kyoto they stayed with artist Kyoko Ibe, shown in the middle here in her new studio. Kyoko Ibe is considered one of the major paper artists in Japan and creates large scale installations with washi and also designs many objects with handmade paper. Jane and Tim were accompanied to Kyoto by Akiko Furuta, a volunteer translator with the Mino Paper Art Village Project. In Kyoto they were also able to see museums and galleries as well as many temples and shrines and a traditional costume parade. Kyoto was a very friendly city with many people who came up and talked with us in English.
Jane also went to Nagoya several times during her stay in Japan, visiting galleries and museums. In Nagoya she also got to visit with Professor Michiko Yashiro, who teaches art at the Nagoya Junior College of Art & Design. The college has wonderful facilities for all kinds of art, including ceramics, wood and metal sculpture, textile design, interior design, video and computer art as well as painting and drawing. Michiko and her husband also took Jane to the downtown Nagoya area where there are many booths for selling used clothing and other items--sort of like a giant flea market. Here Jane enjoyed buying some used kimonos as souvenirs.
One of the most interesting experiences for the Paper Art Village Project artists was participating as models for a kimono fashion show in the city of Gifu. It was quite a challenge getting foreigners to look right in a kimono...they did find one big enough for Jane! It took much pulling tugging and readjusting to get the costume right, and Jane was told by the Japanese ladies in charge of dressing her not to sit down until after her turn on the stage. Kimono dressing will probably never be popular in the U.S. or even in modern Japan because it is very tight and confining, but it does give everyone an elegant look! Here is a photo of Jane in a beautiful black kimono with delicate embroidery and gold braid...she was told this is what the "mother of the bride" might wear to a traditional Japanese wedding.
In Japan Jane also traveled to the city of Kanazawa which is further north than Mino and on the Japan Sea. In Kanazawa Jane visited with the Wakamatsu family whose son Michi is now a Rotary exchange student in Utica, New York. Just before coming to Japan in September, Jane and her husband Tim were host parents for Michi who had just arrived in the U.S. from Kanazawa. The Wakamatsu family took Jane to see art museums and traditional craftsmen's studios in the Kanazawa area as well as the famous Japanese garden in the city.
Here Jane is shown making a sheet of kozo paper using the traditional Japanese methods and equipment at the Mino Washi Museum. For Japanese paper the paper mold has a handwoven bamboo screen instead of wire screening as in Western methods. The artists in the Paper Art Village Project visited the woman in Mino who makes the su, or bamboo screens. The Mino su is perhaps the best quality bamboo screen made in the world, and the process of weaving the very thin strips of special bamboo is incredibly time consuming....I guess that is why they are so expensive! In the Japanese method of papermaking, the sheet is formed by dipping the mold into the vat several times and with a traditional side to side and front to back sloshing of the pulp to form the sheet with several very thin layers of pulp. During her stay in Mino, Jane practiced many times to try and perfect this traditional Japanese technique for making paper. It takes lots of practice to make consistent sheets. One of the most difficult things to learn is how to transfer the formed sheet off the bamboo screen. The Japanese teachers never say in words what you are doing wrong, only show you how it is done again...an interesting and different way of teaching.
This photo shows Jane's work "U" which is the Japanese word for the cormorant bird. Jane created this handmade paper lantern for the Mino City Lantern Festival, held October 17-19, along the city streets. Each year Mino City sponsors a contest for artists to create lanterns using Mino paper. Prizes are awarded for the best and most creative lanterns each year by a team of judges made up of art professionals. This year Jane's lantern was awarded a special "Honorable Mention" prize, and the Japanese artist Yumiko Yamazaki, also in the Paper Art Village Project, received third prize for her lantern. This was the first time Jane and the other foreign artists had ever made a lantern. It was quite a challenge working with new and different materials, and Jane even learned how to do some electrical wiring. Jane decided to make her lantern in the shape of the cormorant since this bird is very famous in the Mino area. It is used by fishermen to catch fish in the Nagara River. The fishermen put a sort of collar around the neck of the birds who then catch the fish for the men, but are unable to swallow them. This type of fishing has been going on for centuries in this area of Japan, and it is a great tourist attraction to go on a river tour with the cormorant fishermen. Jane's lantern was also unique in Japan because it was the only one people had ever seen which was black; most lanterns are made with white or natural colored paper in Japan.
The Mino City lantern festival was a beautiful sight as the streets in the downtown historic area were filled with many unique lighted creations by professional artists and also a section for children's lanterns. The festival also had many booths with food and souvenirs lining the streets and many traditional performers presenting street performances and playing games with the children.
This residency in Japan was a great experience, and Jane has many happy memories of the people and culture of Japan. She hopes to return there in a few years to continue learning more about Japanese papermaking and create more works in Japan. Jane brought home many papers made during her residency and will continue to use these in her New York studio to make new works.
(updated on 5/29/00)