Satomi’s Art Dream has come true and keep going (Part 1)
Introduction to my art project
Here is my report on the art project “Initiation 2018/ Kallichoron” I have participated from January to March this year. This project consisted of two parts: one-week workshop in Athens, Greece, and its follow up group show during Munich Jewelry Week in Germany. I made a new series of jewelry pieces, “Rooted”, in a month between these two events. In addition to my new jewelry pieces, I delivered my first femininity themed performance in Munich, which is my new additional artistic methodology.
As my dance passion has continued, my desire to combine body adornments and body movements grew bigger. That was why I have applied to a unique international art project, “Initiation 2018/ Kallichoron”, at the end of October 2017. Right after my application was accepted, I started thinking of my concept to make a new series of jewelry pieces based on their main theme: Greek Earth Goddess, Demeter. I tried to be open-minded to any possibilities, but I wanted to get a new approach to my femininity theme which I have focused on my art practice for ten years.
It was a big investment both economically and physically for me to take part in this art project. To get some budgetary support, I spent some time on the online fundraising effort and coordinated with a local fundraising event organized by my artist friend, Kelle Marie Kinser, before I went the first trip to Athens. These were my first fund-raising experiences.
1st part: An artist residency program for one week-workshop in Athens, Greece
With some financial support as well as my excitement and nervousness of what waits for me in Athens, I flew to Europe in middle-late January. I was fortunate to have stayed with two smart and talented artists; Vivien Bedwell (Australian) and Daria Brovkova (Russian living in Italy) during the workshop. And another Athenian artist Evgenia Zoidaki joined us to take the workshop. In addition to new artistic stimuli, this artist residency program gave me wonderful international artist connections and artistic stimuli as we worked together. We supported each other’s art, chatted on art and life during January 22-28. The intensive one-week workshop contained many elements: storytelling/media work, performance, ritual dance, and museum/ archeological sites visits.
When started taking a storytelling workshop by Loukia Richards, we revisited our own childhood: drawing a map of the neighborhood and the most important object at that time. Then we told our own childhood story to each other. Four of us became emotional and we were moved on each other’s childhood story. On this workshop, I rediscovered how important to know who I am as a person and visual artist as well as my personal value in my life throughout my childhood experiences. At the storytelling workshop, I started making a link to relationships between a Greek goddess Demeter and her daughter Core with my own relationship with my foster mother (my grandmother) and myself.
One of the main reasons to take this artist residency program was to combine body movements with my jewelry making. Taking performance workshops by Christoph Ziegler and dance workshops by Natasha Hassiotis echoed each other with body movements involving emotions, which gave me a new type of excitement more than I expected. At the performance workshop, we were told to be free to interact first with objects in the room and later with other people in the room. Also, I had a feeling that we have gotten back to innocent children and purely focused on the engaging moments without any hesitation. And we have gradually become free to express one’s own thought with emotion by using body movements. One thing I would like to continue from the performance workshop is to talk to my jewelry piece pretending not to have anyone around us. It may sound weird, but in this way, I could remember how I proceed to finish the jewelry piece and get intimacy with the piece, which is important. At the dance workshops, each of us opened our own mind and engaged emotional expressions with body movement by Natasha’s guidance. We started with warmup dance, and then we were introduced to a modern/contemporary dance. The requirement of the physical involvement gave me and other artists more freedom to express various emotions with a natural state of the mind, even though we haven’t had a professional dance background. I felt a joy of dancing increasingly more. The body-engaging workshops are useful for every artist to loosen up oneself and be free and sometimes become emotional. This is indeed a good method to investigate oneself as an artist when one makes an artwork. As the workshop progressed further, I gradually built up new ideas for a new series of jewelry pieces, and at the same time, for my first performance.
We spent almost one day at The National Archeological Museum
In addition to workshops, we visited National Archeological Museum and archeological sites to learn Greek art culture and civilization intensively. Our first site visit was Acropolis. As the meaning of “acro” is “highest/ extreme”, and “polis” is “place”, it is located on the rocky flat-topped hillside in the central part of Athens. Acropolis, consisting of many buildings, used to be a place for politics, faith, and healing. We were climbing up while seeing many complexes, including ancient theatre, hospital, and Propylaea (massive gateway), Erechtheion (ancient temple dedicated to Athena and Poseidon), Temple of Athena Nike, Parthenon (the most well-known structure), and others. Parthenon and most other buildings are under reconstruction because they were seriously damaged by Venetians during the Sixth Ottoman–Venetian War in 1687. It was meaningful to visit Acropolis where the democratic politics were held in an ancient era, contrasting to the current political circumstances in America. I felt that we should learn lessons from history.
Another highlight was to visit an archeological site, “Eleusis”, where the Well of the fair dances, called “Kallichoron,” was located. We took a bus from Athens to the historical site of Eleusis/ Eleusina. For 2,000 years, Eleusina was the spiritual capital of the Greek-Roman world. The cult of Demeter and Persephone – Mother and Daughter – also known as “orgies” (work) celebrated the establishment of human settlements and agriculture, the cycle of nature and life, the preparation and sharing of foods, the creation and abolishment of hierarchical classes and the metaphysical explanation for the soul’s destiny after death. It is said that a Greek earth goddess Demeter and her daughter Core performed their ritual dance around the Well. The details of the ceremony have not been known because it was a secret ritual. Many theories have emerged based on Homeric Hymns and the depiction of paints and ceramics excavated from the Eleusis historical site. It is said that many Athenians from the poor to the rich in the ancient time went to the Eleusinian mysterious ceremony on foot; it took many days to get there, and they participated in the ritualistic ceremony to gain happiness after their death. Because the ceremony was secret, my curiosity grew further. Our visit was on a nice day with the blue sky and quiet air because we were only the group to visit the site during that time of the day. There was a sacred atmosphere in the site and I even felt an unusually strong spiritual power.
Our last visit was Byzantine Museum to appreciate Christian artifacts. I enjoyed especially depictions of Madonna and the Child because I had decided to focus on the relationship between a mother and a child. My focus for my new femininity approach was inspired by the story of Demeter and Core, as well as my childhood story of my grandmother (my foster mother) and myself.
Consequently, I established my direction themed on new femininity, which was a straightforward result from my experiences in the one-week workshop in Athens.
One month to make a new series (collection) of jewelry pieces for the group show
Before my Greek trip, I did some research on Greek Goddess, Demeter. I read the story of Demeter and the story of Demeter/ her daughter Core. Then, I did another research on females in agriculture of North America to extend the story and possibility on the Earth/ agriculture goddess to get something for my new approach to femininity theme. I found some interesting results on female farmers in North America. Females often lack money to buy a big farmland and/or equipment. Therefore, they engage farming in a sustainable way with their small investment, such as organic farming, educational involvement to local people/ kids, and networking with other female farmers to share their experiences. Since I have been active as a member of a local female artist collective, I readily understand the power of women’s networking to support each other and to make progress with the same artistic goal. In a bigger picture of the human society, I believe that it is necessary to achieve the strong network among women to get more equal right and freedom.
With my basic research on the earth goddess Demeter and female farmers in the USA, I was engaged in “Rooted” series jewelry making right after I came back from Europe. My main memory in my childhood was always about the relationship with my grandmother as my foster mother, who was my initial artistic inspiration. Now as a grownup woman, I understand my grandmother’s loneliness after I moved to the United States to get married, which mimics to the story of Core’s disappearance from Demeter. The relationship between a mother and a daughter is a serious subject for women in general when we talk about psychological and emotional layers of femininity.
Furthermore, my new series is an expression of “life cycle” in the form of a plant, which is echoing human life; beginning of life as a seed, growing a leaf and leaves, at the same time rooted on the ground, making pods after flowering, and eventually ending up as seeds. Not only plant but also human being is rooted to her/his environment. I grew up in a country side in a small town called Wakayama in Japan. Now I live in a nature rich environment in Iowa City, and I have always been feeling a strong tie to the nature. Living in USA as a transplanted person under my Japanese cultural identity, I have been making some adjustments to the new society to seek for my own place to be rooted. As a transplanted person, I want to believe that I have been grown as a person and a visual female artist in my community to find my personal place.
Thus, my new femininity jewelry pieces were born to combine ideas of revisiting my childhood, the relationship of a mother and a daughter (my foster mother and myself) which is reminiscent to Demeter and Core, and my status as a transplanted person.