The Napa Library exhibit of my work is down.

The Napa Library exhibit of my work is down.  What took hours of planning and installation came down in less than 30 minutes!

I love having the video overview of the show as a whole and the separate fusion video of Dreams Like Silver Fish to extend the exhibit’s life. (Thank you Art & Clarity.)  Please take a few minutes to view the videos.  Touch base with a comment.  Would love to hear from you!

New today are videos of Tina Jolley and Danny Khuu talking about their experiences with my art as they went about their work in the library.  The intelligence, sensitivity and awareness they brought to viewing blew me away. I am so grateful for their articulate sharing.

Dreams Like Silver Fish

A 2 minute video photo montage of the painting Dreams Like Silver Fish with a voice over of me reading the poem I wrote that inspired the painting.

Where Have I Been?

Good question.  Where to begin?

In July of 2014 I completed the painting, The King Is Dead, a 36 x 36” oil on canvas that presaged the decline and ultimate death of my father in November, 2015. (You can view The King Is Dead by clicking on Karen’s World at the top of the web page, then on the Hungry Ghosts-Oni  tile.)

It also marked the beginning of a period of deep internal turmoil, self questioning and of loss.  Loss, not just of my father, but also of the identity forged through the turbulent relationship with Dad and the invisible assumptions and ties that kept me anchored in a worldview that had, up to that point, remained invisible.   Challenging stuff.

During that time I exhibited some of the Hungry Ghosts in an Asian American Women’s Art Association group show in San Francisco and had one of the Hungry Ghost images included in a Visual/Literary Tapestry published in conjunction with the Asian American Literary Review’s special issue on mental health challenges in Asian American communities. 

May of 2016 found me in deep creative doldrums.  The invitation to share my artistic, creative journey with the Lady M of my Lady M series through the Napa Library program Remarkable Journeys  pulled me up and out of the mire.  Structuring my talk and accompanying visuals about my artistic development around the concept of a journey with Lady M gave me a new point of view that allowed me to experience my artist’s life and creative output in a fresh way.

You can view the video of the talk, Remarkable Journeys:  Karen Nagano & Lady M, by clicking on

Approaching my life and work from a different angle inspired a painting long in gestation:  A diptych titled Dreams Like Silver Fish which was inspired by a poem I wrote after a visit to Beppu, Japan.  It also inspired me to bring Lady M into the realm of Hungry Ghosts for the first time.  (Lady M & Hungry Ghosts, mixed mediums, 24 x 24”)

  Dreams Like Silver Fish

Dreams Like Silver Fish



Hair flowing thick and black,
cascades over husk filled pillows,
across tatami, edging towards
my futon like a hungry wave.

Outside, the geysers belch steam
into an already steamy night,
While in the glimmering river
ofhair, silver dreams, quick as fish,
dart upstream to their source:
The smooth arc of a Buddha’s cheek.

                                  Karen Nagano


  Lady M & Hungry Ghosts

Lady M & Hungry Ghosts

Both of these new works, among others, are currently on display at the Napa County Library, 580 Coombs Street, Napa through May 30, 2017.  All together, the exhibited work spans twenty years.

The Napa Library exhibit through the Art in the Library program makes me incredibly happy.  The work never looked better, old and new.  The vast space of the library allows the color, patterns and rhythms to sing.  I love seeing my art surrounding people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, sizes, styles.  It’s a complex world, and my art can hold it all.  It does not fade away.  It does not recede.

I’m grateful for that and so pleased.

I’m not really sure where I’ve been.  I do know that I’m back!  It feels good!

Going forward, I’m excited about creating a gallery store .  For those of you who want the aliveness and energy of more color, an Asian cultural connection, a paradigm of female empowerment, the liberation and zest that comes from facing Hungry Ghosts, the warmth and intimacy of human connection or the sheer beauty and uplift of creative expression, the store will have something for you.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, thank you for reading this post.  Thank you for your patience.  It’s an honor to have your presence.

Hungry Ghosts/Oni

Hungry Ghost/Oni  pieces continue to emerge.  There’s big energy behind these works even though the scale has remained small.   The four images below are new ones.  I’m excited by the unexpected visual inventiveness and playfulness.  I intended to confront my fears and explore the Shadow and Darkness.  Who knew so much humor and play lurked there along with the scary stuff? 

So.  Some good news.  Three of the pieces have been included in a juried exhibit, Hungry Ghosts, sponsored by the Asian American Women Artists Association in San Francisco.  Would love to see you at the Opening Reception on April 2.  (Details in the Upcoming Events Column to the right.)   Seeing the work in person adds a depth and resonance to the viewing experience that is special and unique.  You would also have the opportunity to see the concept of Hungry Ghosts interpreted by other Asian American artists in different media.

AAWAA requested an Artist’s Statement to be used for wall text.  I’ve included it below.  It expands on what I’ve written for the introduction to the Hungry Ghost/Oni gallery in my website, and includes an element about some of the responses to the work which have been very meaningful to me.



In my Hungry Ghost/Oni series of mixed medium paintings, I extend an openness of heart, mind and hand to the repressed, neglected, cast-out aspects of myself which haunt the netherworld between wake and sleep. For many years, I reacted to the energies of this Shadow Self as enemies to my happiness and well-being.  As I began to extend compassion to myself and to all the energies within me, the netherworld that I had feared and resisted began to give form to itself.  Through the expression of these energies, I discovered that rather than undermine or destroy happiness and well-being, given freedom and the acceptance to exist, a surge of energy and life and creativity was released.  I felt whole and happy. 

In addition to the sense of wholeness and heightened sense of aliveness and creativity, the gifts of the Hungry Ghost/Oni work include the connection and community it brings.  Some people like them because they like them.  They respond to the humor and playfulness and bright color.  Others have said they feel healing after viewing my Hungry Ghosts.  They feel less alone.  They feel strengthened and more buoyant. They like the visual inventiveness and the ability to see something scary and yet also experience amusement and light-heartedness.  I’m very grateful for those responses.  The meaning and effect the work gives to others provides me a sense of completeness that is beyond words.

 Please enjoy these new images.  Would love to hear your thoughts and feelings. 

Contact me through my website,  

And if you’d like to enliven and brighten the dark areas of your soul or just add more creativity and play to your environment, contact me through my website for purchase information,

As usual, I am working on more than one thing at a time.  Sketchbook, studies, Lady M, back burner/front burner.  Sensing an interaction among the different series.  Thankful for the time and space to work in this beautiful place.

Serpent & Starfish, 12.75 x 15.75”, Mixed mediums on paper and panel.

Bound & Chained, 12.75 x 15.25”, Mixed mediums on paper and panel.

Serpent & Wings, 11.75 x 17.75”, Mixed mediums on paper and panel.

Polka Dots, 13.75 x 14.75”, Mixed mediums on paper and panel.

Brian: A Eulogy

When I finished this painting recently, I felt a sense of buoyancy and peace.

 Brian: A Eulogy, oil on canvas, 42” x 66”

Brian: A Eulogy, oil on canvas, 42” x 66”

Those feelings told me: Time to let it go; it’s complete. You’ve done all you can.

Come to the reception of my show at BUMP WINE CELLARS TASTING ROOM & GALLERY to see it in the flesh and tell me in person, what you experience viewing this piece.

See details about the reception and exhibit in UPCOMING EVENTS.

I’ll be writing more about the creation of this piece and the process of self discovery required to complete it in a future blog. Stay tuned! You can sign up below to receive my blog. It’s a great way to keep in touch with the processes of the studio life.

My Sketchbooks

My sketchbooks.  I’ve kept sketchbooks for over twenty years.  In them, my heart, hand and eye fall on the outer world and my interior world without discrimination.

In my sketchbooks language meets image, my id finds free expression, my eye for beauty is given free rein.  My sketchbooks are inclusive, uncensored.  Without them, I’m a dry creekbed.  No water.  No juice.  No flow.

Here are a few sketchbook studies for the Hungry Ghost/Oni pieces.  Allowing words to flow—stream of consciousness—loosens the image-making.  There’s a back and forth.  Word-image.  Image-word.  Poems are often born here.

To give an idea of the scope of the sketchbooks, I’ve included a sketchbook drawing I did in the same time frame as the Hungry Ghost/Oni entries.  This drawing has a finished quality other sketchbook work often lacks.  

Seeing it brings back the moment of creation.  As I drew, the stunning beauty of the persimmons hanging from the tree in the side yard grabbed my hand, eye and heart to create the entry that reflects both the natural beauty of the persimmons on the tree and the deep resonance the fuyu persimmon has in Japanese culture.

My sketchbooks are the crucible in which my inner world and the outer world meet without conflict or judgment.  How do you house the many facets of your universe?