Kizuna: Connecting through Generations Part II
Ongoing at the Japanese Canadian National Museum, as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations at the National Nikkei Museum & Heritage Centre, is the exhibit Kizuna (bonds or ties). The exhibit, conceived and curated by JCNM curator Beth Carter, brings together four artists of Japanese ancestry, working in a variety of disciplines.
The goal of Kizuna, Carter says, “is to start a dialogue and dynamic interchange across generations which provides an innovative, fresh perspective on cultural concerns.” With that in mind, she chose four younger emerging artists based on their diverse perspectives on Japanese Canadian experience, the range of media they represent, their desire to build connections within the community, and the importance of their work in relation to cross-cultural understanding. She invited the four artists to meet with community elders and to delve into the museum collections—photographs, archival materials and artifacts—as a means of inspiring discussion and as a visual inspiration for the artists.
In sharing their stories and exploring their interconnections, the artists gained fresh perspectives and insight into their own identity, leading to new works reflecting on cultural concerns in the contemporary world. Over the course of the project, the artists made entries on a blog set up for the purpose (kizunaproject.blogspot.com), documenting the creative process as it unfolded.
In the last issue, The Bulletin spotlighted two of the artists, Natalie Purschwitz (interdisciplinary artist working with fibre and textiles) and Greg Masuda (photographer/filmmaker).
This issue features Miyuki Shinkai (painter and glass artist); and Mark Takeshi McGregor (musician and contemporary music collaborator).
Miyuki Shinkai was born and raised in Shiga, Japan. After earning a BA in English and Comparative Culture in Osaka, she relocated to the United States where she studied in Hawaii, California and Vermont, earning an MA in Social Administration at Georgia Southwestern State University. While there, she developed an interest in glass and earned a minor in glassblowing. This interest led her to the Pilchuck Glass School, Washington and a career in the art of glassblowing.
Miyuki now lives and works in Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast, where she and her husband, Wayne Harjula, run Mellon Glass Studio. The couple met in the States, where they were both developing their craft and moved to Canada together to start their own studio. After working in Vancouver’s Strathcona area for a number of years they relocated to the Sunshine Coast, looking for a place that was closer to nature to raise their young family. Both artists have had numerous exhibitions of their work at galleries around the world.
Her piece in Kizuna, titled Renew, Rebirth, Regenerating, is comprised of a large painting that oversees 24 blown-glass bottles, each topped with a small glass Japanese fishing float and filled with various artifacts from her mentor, Miki Maeba, and the JCNM archives. As she says about the piece, “This work represents a celebration of the cycle of life and the tokens of our existence in which include my mentor’s life and mine. I also thought about all our honourable and courageous ancestors’ lives, particularly the women who were often behind the scenes and less recognized, but a centre of their family and a core of the community foundation. I am paying homage to our pioneer’s achievements by preserving the momentum of both joy and hardship in twenty four glass jars.”
When Mark Takeshi McGregor began studying music as a ten-year-old in Delta, he wanted to play the saxophone. His father went off to the local music store to purchase an alto sax but came home with a flute instead. “A beginner saxophone cost about $150 and there was a flute on sale for fifty bucks—no contest in my Dad’s mind!” So Mark took up the flute, although with no real aspirations beyond playing in the school band. He intended to study painting after high school, however “being the spinny teenager I was, I missed the application deadline for Emily Carr. At that point I remember thinking, what the hell: I’ll apply to UBC for music. What began from that point was really a four-year mad scramble to catch up with the “serious” music students!”
Catch up he did, and Mark has gone on to become one of Canada’s most lauded musicians, winning a number of honours and collaborating with many respected musicians, including violinist Dmitri Sitkovetsky, cellist Steven Isserlis and Icelandic pop star Björk. Described as a musician of “huge physical energy,” McGregor’s performances have been described by critics as “mind-blowing” and “verging on the superhuman.” He has performed across Canada and throughout Europe, Australia and Israel.
An outspoken advocate of new music, Mark is principal flute of the Aventa Ensemble in Victoria, one-half of the Vancouver-based Tiresias Duo with pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, and co-artistic director of the Redshift Music Society, a new music society dedicated to the performance of Canadian composers in alternative venues. His first solo CD, Different Stones, was nominated for “Classical Recording of the Year” at the 2010 Western Canadian Music Awards.
For Kizuna, Mark collaborated with Japanese electroacoustic composer Yota Kobayashi, who created a soundscape over which Mark plays the flute. Mark also collected a number of photos from his grandfather’s collection and the JCNM collection and painted four paintings to represent the four seasons of the piece’s title, Shiki.
The exhibit was generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts – Conseil des Arts du Canada; the NAJC, the City of Burnaby and the Burnaby Arts Council.