Observer: Saya Woolfalk | Artist
Portrait by LaMont Hamilton
Images Courtesy of the Artist
What’s your AMMO?
I recently went to the opening of More Material, a group show curated by Duro Olowu at Salon 94 Bowery. The show is an intersection of art and fashion and features a wide range of works from artists like Nick Cave and Lorna Simpson. Duro’s ornate capes were amazing to see and inspired a last minute costume change for my most recent video commissioned by Chrysler Museum.
How does being born in Japan and growing up in the US translate in your art? You’ve also mentioned taking influences from your time in Brazil for your “No Place” project. Can you speak to that influence?
Diversity of place, culture, and identity are important parts of my practice. No Place was partially inspired by movement of people from one continent to another and my experiences living between spaces. My interests stem from my mixed background, the summers I spent growing up in Japan and my time in Brazil. When I was living in Brazil, I was excited to learn that Brazil has one of the largest populations of Japanese descendants in the entire world
What are some philosophies that you can share that have kept you focused and on track with your vision?
Staying true to my vision requires a combine experimentation and hard work. My new collage pieces (which will be featured in Leslie Tonkonow Gallery’s booth at Art Expo, Chicago this fall) look pretty spontaneous but took me over two years to develop.
The fictional worlds you’ve created have an almost factual story. How real are these characters to you?
I create fictional worlds that are as immersive and full-scale as possible. I take elements from the real world and fold them into fantasy so that they are semi-recognizable to my viewers. My favorite part of building these places is when they start to almost make themselves. It gets really exciting when the logic of a project has become so clear that he project tells me what should happen next in the story.
What inspired you to pursue art, what is one of your youngest and most vivid memories of a growing relationship with art?
The Egyptian Wing at the Met has inspired me since I was a kid. The first sculpture I remember making was a Japanese tea chest transformed into a miniature Egyptian sarcophagus. One dream project would be to make an installation and stage a performance in the amazing glass atrium that houses the Temple of Dendur.
Who are some of your icons?
Thelma Golden, Wangechi Mutu, Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, Bjork, Mariko Mori, Lygia Clark.
If you could describe yourself by 1 type of food, 2 colors, and one animal what would you pick?
Food: Making fusion tacos with my husband Sean and daughter Aya.
Colors: White because it’s a color that is contains all colors and grey for its neutrality.
Animal: A chimera – an imaginary monster with many different parts.
What projects are up next for you?
On September 4, I will be staging a live performance at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. I am really excited because the piece is going to be made in response to an exhibition called Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism. The piece will feature music by DJ Spooky and I am designing an immersive experience activated by local dancers. I have a solo exhibition at Smack Mellon Gallery in New York and another at the Chrysler Museum in Virginia. Both will feature my new project, ChimaTEK.