Maki Tamura was born in Tokyo, raised in Jakarta and now makes her home in Seattle. I have known Maki since we were under-graduates at the University of Washington in the early to mid-nineties. Maki went on to earn an MFA in painting from Tyler School of Art, Temple University in 1999. It has been amazing to watch Maki’s work evolve over nearly two decades.
I recently visited Maki’s cozy winter studio in her home. We were joined by Maki’s beloved Pekingese Gizmo who snored quite happily as we talked. In the cold months when the sun is rarely seen, Maki works on a drafting table, generating dozens of delicate watercolor paintings, which become part of larger scale sculptural structures. Maki’s warm weather studio in her garage provides necessary space for her giant, hanging lanterns, accordion style screens, wall sized clocks, dimensional medallions, and dangling “intricate clusters of pictorial tablets.”
Maki brings an incredible level of discipline, a keen eye, and a rich, hybrid approach to her sculptural watercolor paintings. She freely culls images and color palettes from a wide range of source material, synthesizing multiple cultures and historical periods. Maki engages in “irreverent approaches to displaying pictures, methods of presentation that are precious and subversive, traditional and contemporary.” Her kaleidoscopic work is unabashedly decorative; this ornamental aesthetic involves a sly form of rebellion, equalizing imagery that is global in scope and encompassing the humorous, hallowed, haughty and hokey.
Growing up in Indonesia influences Maki’s sensibility and practice. She was impressed and imprinted by the “visual cacophony” of street vendors’ touristy trinkets, sacred votives in temples, and colorful movie posters all juxtaposed within “majestic,” Dutch Colonial architecture. “Such visual cacophony, contrasted with a classical sense of western beauty, is the aesthetic and conceptual inspiration for these sculptures.” Maki’s work similarly involves refined structures featuring sacred and profane imagery, which evoke bestiaries, nursery rhymes, high tea, Indonesian textiles, natural history museums, “old masters,” and more.
Maki is represented by the James Harris Gallery in Seattle, WA where she will have a not-to-be- missed solo exhibition in November 2010.
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