One of my favorite installation artists, Naoko Ito, just got a residency in Saratoga Springs, about ten minutes away from my hometown. I'm fairly seizing with happiness. So pleased.
Ito's body of work isn't huge, but the things she puts out are always so thoughtful. There's a lightness to her work that's really refreshing without being overly sweet or fragile. Some of her work draws upon materials and found objects that could get precious really quickly, but there's something behind the mixture of cherry blossoms and glass, metal and metaphor, that makes them powerful. Most of her pieces deal with the confluence of the natural world with the world as we've made it. The messages she presents are, on their own terms, quite jarring (no pun intended...she uses a lot of jars), but the way she presents them is quiet, even peaceful. "This is our creation," she seems to say. "Look at what we've made. Look at what I've made."
Also, this might be a really stupid observation, but I think the way she uses jars is lovely. Grizzly Bear used jars as the bulbs for their light display when I saw them in concert last year, and I started thinking about this then. Urban Outfitters sells these "sun jars" my silly four-year-old self really wants. They're supposed to capture solar energy during the day and then re-emit it once the sun goes down. In pretty colors, of course. But jars do lots of things. They hold and preserve. They contain our pet lightning bugs (don't forget to hole-punch the lid!) and the water I use to rinse my brushes when I paint. My grandmother had an ENORMOUS jar full of different buttons sitting in her bedroom when I was really little. Jars hold collections. So I'm trying to work out what Ito is collecting here...
Urban Nature 2009
She's a Japanese artist who works in New York City, so I wonder if an upstate residency will influence her new work at all. When I think of home I think of blue-green water, pine trees, and mountains that follow you, wherever you go. I'm thrilled that she'll be working there, and hope I get to see some of her work popping up around Saratoga.