Wabi Sabi

Scroll to view exhibition images followed by process.

Noren #1
Hand-stamped fabric with bee-brocade border
40 x 13 inches

Leave your shoes and swords outside the door. Enter Wabi Sabi.

What is Wabi Sabi? The delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from the absence of things.

Stardust Molecular Structure & Green Leaves
Stitched Italian anti-mosquito screen & Painted paper
20 x 3 feet

The aesthetic is irregular, intimate, unpretentious, earthy, and an antidote to the corporate mindset that has saturated our daily dealings.

The painted leaves suspended overhead from bamboo poles were made by high school students in the East Boston Advanced Art class. They collected leaves from the neighborhood to use as templates.

The bamboo poles were gathered from my backyard garden in Cambridge.

The young artists made me 108 leaves, because the number 108 is considered, by many cultures, to be a sacred number that connects us to our place in the cosmic order.

Zen Garden
Plaster sculptures and folded paper

A field of figurative plaster sculptures displayed on folded paper fans evoke a traditional Japanese garden, with its raked pattern and quiet landscape rocks.

Zen Asteroid #5
24 x 14 x 5 inches

The body finds wings when things gets dark.

Our bodies are composed of the cosmic dust of stars that exploded billions of years ago. The “Asteroids” resting in the Zen Garden are as impermanent as we are. Dissolving. Evolving. Always repairing. 

Zen Asteroid #2
27 x 12 x 6 inches

Wabi-Sabi shows us that the art objects we examine have limits and flaws and suggests that the job of an artist is to show the flaws to us.

Yet...we always can find beauty in cracks, crevices and marks that time, weather and use have left behind.

Wabi Sabi Origami Book
8.5 x 11 inches, unfolded

All of the art objects chosen for Wabi Sabi are made of simple non-technical material--paper, plaster, glues, found objects, ceramic. I made an origami gallery guide to hand out to visitors. 

In the simplicity of my materials and tools, I bowed to the children who continue to mesmerize and impress me, as well as reexamined my responsibility to leave the world safe for them. 

Zen Asteroid #4
11x10 x 5 inches

The ritual of making art; the bowing to materials; the emptying of self; the fixing of mistakes and getting a finished work that’s not quite expected but beautiful.

Installation, north and east wall
20x20.5x8 inches

My photographer, George Bouret, is enjoying Wabi Sabi and taking a look at the work of two guest artists: Dick Stroud and Joseph Fontinha.

How to Tie an Obi
15-minute video by Joseph Fontinha

Boston artist Joseph Fontinha married my ‘Japanese daughter’ Asami. In the video, “How to Tie an Obi," Asami and Joseph’s teenage daughter is being dressed in a blue kimono by Asami’s 96 year-old grandmother. 

(For two decades my family and I have hosted international students in our house.They are young women who want to improve their English language skill so that they may be well-employed when they return to their home countries.)

Tea Room

Wabi Sabi philosophy evolved from the Tea Ceremony. 

Dyan Eagles, Zen monk and founder of Dharma Crafts, generously lent the gallery a red-lacquered tea table and zafu cushions for our tea house. 

Tea Cup Rain

Tea-ism is founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of every day existence.

Above the Tea Room I suspended a tea cup collection from bamboo poles.

British Tea Cups & New England Rocks

The tea ceremony works directly on all five senses. This is by design. Buddhist monks apparently structured the ritual so that it would wake people up, both physically and spiritually.

The basket is full of smooth rocks collected from New England beaches. 

Kintsugi Plates & Noren #2
Ceramic with gold powder and resin repairs
10” diameter, each plate

When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling in the cracks with gold. The repair is called kintsugi. Something that has suffered damage and history becomes more beautiful.

Kintsugi Plate #1 (detail)
Ceramic, gold dust and resin

My husband and I met practicing Aikido, a Japanese martial art. Consequently we are fond of everything Japanese. One summer, in Italy, he packed the three ceramic plates I had made in his backpack. Then, running for a train, he dropped the backpack. My plates shattered. 

Two years later, a Kintsugi artist repaired the plates. The gold seams remind us to celebrate loss, synthesis, improvement, change. 

Youth's Voice

In 2018, Greta Thunberg, a young Swedish environmental activist, challenged world leaders to take immediate action against climate change. 

The assemblage features her letter to the United Nations.

The sea under “Youth’s Voice”
Silk sea sponge forms and LED tube

The exquisite silk sea sponge forms in the “Youth's Voice” assemblage are artifacts from my early career as a sponge importer. In the 80s, I designed packaging and distributed ‘silk’ and ‘wool’ sponges to cosmetic stores, bath shops and health food stores. 

Guest Artist: Ayumi Ueda
Performance art

Sound healer, Ayumi Ueda, presented an evening performance using crystal singing bowls and mantra chanting. She is the founder of the award-winning international vocal ensemble, Women of the World.

Scrolls by Guest Artist Roberta Pyx Sutherland
Scrolls: inks, watercolor& mineral pigments on hand-made paper

Visual artist Roberta Pyx Sutherland, lives in Victoria, Canada. Her practice contemplates the ancient symbolic circle and its capacity to transmit a non-verbal experience.

The repetition of the circle embodies cosmic patterning, divine intelligence, the environment and the interconnectivity of all life forms.

"Aikido Samurai" by Guest Artist Dick Stroud
24 x 30 inches

Dick Stroud, Artist and Eighth Dan Aikido Black Belt, introduced me to my husband.

Dick mentored me, and many people, in the ways of art and life. He was quite an impressive person. He is gone. 

Super-8 Camera

I invited people I love and have loved to be with me in the art making for this exhibit.

Everything was sacred: the noren I sewed to separate the gallery space from the entry hall, my husband ’s Aikido sword that stood on the floor, my old Bolex super-8 camera placed in a window. 

The tools, objects and materials I used possessed ancestors that continued on within the gallery realm.

Process images

When I write about my process, I most often speak through the materials I use and show you how I used them to create fragments from fragments that become the sculptures, prints and art objects for installations.

Fragmentation: all my work explores the residue of fragmentation and how pieces of anything become like dividing cells that just want to keep on living. We all have the urge to reproduce and to create. We all want to go on living.

Wabi Sabi explores fragmentation as well. For instance, how residual dust of stars forge the elements of the human body. In Wabi Sabi's Japanese Garden a cloud of stardust hangs above fragments of white torsos that represent rocks. In another assemblage, single paper leaves are re-joined with wooden poles to become a living canopy of nature. On the wall, ceramic plates, dropped and broken, are glued back together with gold dust and resin, becoming more precious than the unbroken plates.

In addition to the messages within each assemblage, the fragmentation echoes in Wabi Sabi show you, the viewer, the bits and pieces of my life as an artist. After the show opened, I experienced an intense emotional reaction when I realized everything that had provided me the 'juice' to be the artist that I am today was on show in the gallery.

Bancha is made from the out-of-season leaves and twigs that support the finer leaves for high-quality tea drinkers. It is considered to be one of the lowest grades of Japanese teas. Yet when brewed in a tea house--or with a particular intention in your own home--bancha becomes sacred.

The raising up of a common, everyday beverage to be consumed in a ceremonial way attests to the power of human nature: the power of our minds, our love, and our kindness. We can be happy with each other by sitting, listening, not being in a rush, taking care of what we have, and using simple means to make poetic statements.

A simple tea cup reminds us we are interconnected with nature.

All who enter Wabi Sabi leave their swords outside the door. No competition going on here!

In a way, it's like everyone can be lazy inside a tea room; feel free, unencumbered by obligations. That's how it feels to be a creative person, an artist.

In Wabi Sabi mode, our bodies meet, travel and talk. We engage in creative activities, spiritual pursuits, and spiritual quests. Our bodies relax. Our minds open and surrender to our hearts.

Many children are represented in Wabi Sabi. First, my daughter: the pink lights. The lights and my daughter bring home to me the realness of being a mother and how that experience continues to contribute to my artistic expression.

Second, is the young girl in the video “How to Tie an Obi.” The young girl is the daughter of Asami, my Japanese 'daughter' who represents me, a 'host mother,' to the young women from all over the world who lived with me and my family over the past two decades. Many of these young women became muses and models for my work.

Third, is Greta Thunberg in the typewriter and sea sponge assemblage. Greta speaks for today's children; she is their voice.

Lastly, are the overhead leaves, which were painted by students in East Boston High School. The leaves represent my work as a teacher.

What do you do when your husband drops the ceramic plates that took you a month to make? You cry. You say you want a divorce. You stop talking to him. You think of everything he did in 30 years of marriage that drove you crazy.

And then you get over it and go on with your life. You go on creating. You continue making art. You can even thank him for providing a protected space for your art to flourish.

Saying Thanks.

To guest artists. Children. Voices. Nature. Beauty. The bodies that bow to enter the world of art.

& to Charlene Liska, video artist, who ran the camera.

There's a bamboo jungle in my backyard. Who would have thought New England was growing ground for this exotic wood!

In October, I harvested more than a dozen long poles to suspend from the gallery ceiling. You will see me unloading the bamboo from the truck bed and moving it to the garden side of my house where it will 'season' and wait for the February's Wabi Sabi exhibition.