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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvaF0DjC7eY .
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”)
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.
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.