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Studio tour with Michele Benzamin-Miki
Reflections of what inspires my work as an artist..
I spent the first four years of my life in Japan. We lived with my grandmother in a traditional Japanese house in Kobe. My grandmother was the first person who encouraged me to draw. It is my first memory of art. She put paper down for me, but I always wanted more space. So she covered the floor with paper. Soon I was going over the edge and onto the tatami mat. So she taped paper on the walls, all around the room. I could never master the art of staying on the paper. I always wanted to go beyond the edges. Soon the walls were covered in colors and shapes. I never knew anyone who was so loving, so willing to let me explore beyond boundaries. She set a theme for my life.
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I dreamed that I was walking down a narrow street. On the sidewalk was a long shadow, like a tree, extending for what seemed forever. But there was no tree in sight. I had a sense that it was the time-line of my life. I started to run along the length of this mysterious shadow. As I did, I felt all the losses and victories of my life, so many that it was impossible to count. It was as if life had turned into a torrent of memories, past and future indistinguishable from each other. I could see that there was an end to the timeline, and as I drew nearer to it, I felt a deep sense of peace. Just as I reached what I though would be the end of my time in this life, I burst through into something enormous and beautiful, as if some great change was coming, into the world and into my life. Even now, as I reflect on this dream, I am filled with a sense of indescribable happiness.
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I was walking through a retrospective show of post-war Japanese painting and installation art. A telephone on a table started to ring. It wasn’t clear whether the phone was an installation or part of the gallery. I picked it up, I heard a sweet, soft voice say, “Hello.” “Hello,” I replied. “This is Yoko,” said the voice on the phone. We talked for half an hour. She asked me about my dreams, and I asked her about hers. We made word-art together that day. Imagine!
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