Toshiko Takaezu is considered one of the most influential and well-known international ceramic and painting artists. Her ceramic art works are intersected closely with her painting; one can say that her painting is present at her ceramics. Toshiko was born in 1922 in Hawaii. Her parents were Japanese immigrants from the middle class. The artist graduated from the University of Hawaii Art, and then entered the Crandbrook Educational Community of Michigan. Toshiko got a broad education associated with the art of painting and ceramics. Her style cannot be confused with any other. Toshiko Takaezu’s creativity can be considered unique for several reasons. Firstly, it is integrated into the ceramic elements of painting and presence of sound. Secondly, she has lived all her life in the United States having a traditional Japanese education. Her work is a symbiosis of two completely different cultures. Perhaps, the fact of national aesthetic mixing was fundamental in the formation of such a unique perspective on Western Ceramics.
Figure 1. Toshiko Takaezu
In 2011, Toshiko died at the age of 88 years in Honolulu. The artist was not only an art worker, she had also taught at Princeton University for 25 years. She had taught art history for several generations, and then became a mentor and guru. Many people would remember her unusual but simple round shapes of the ceramics.
In just one century, Toshiko’s Japanese art became known in the West and had a significant influence on it. The opening of Japan to foreigners in 1868 has generated enthusiasm for all western things and forced the Japanese to turn away from their own rich culture and artistic heritage. At this time, many beautiful paintings and sculptures have been sold, and they are located in the Western museums and private collections. The exhibitions of these items were introduced to the West, and Japan has stimulated interest in travel to the Far East. Of course, the occupation of Japan by American troops at the end of World War II opened wider opportunities to explore more in-depth study of the Japanese temples and treasures. This interest was reflected in the attendance of American museums. Interest in the East in general has caused the organization of exhibitions of Japanese art, selected from the Japanese public and private collections and brought to America and Europe (Loke, 18).
Therefore, Toshiko was trying to show the beauty of Japanese culture from the American viewpoint through their creativity during her entire life. Two totally different cultures are connected in her works. Toshiko’s aesthetic idea of home is that all the excess is ugly. This trend reflects the Japanese tradition in art and in life. However, the American culture has affected Toshiko’s art very deeply. The West has contributed to the formation of her work as a democracy, wiped the certain limits in her creative vision and gave more opportunities for the development of her unique style.
TOSHIKO’S UNIQUE STYLE
Toshiko’s main objective was to investigate "closed form" throughout all her artistic career. So it is usually determined by the type of her sculptures. Toshiko felt a strong passion for art and engineering ceramics. She used various combinations of manual molding. Her closed forms serve as the volume canvases to display pictorial forms (see figure 2). She used a wide range of glazing techniques, including multiple levels of cleaning by means of dipping and pouring (Merino, 37). Toshiko could formulate the unique rounded shape with the help of certain movements of fingers. The final result was filled with real magic that occurred in the furnace: a sculpture
came to life acquiring the final shape while it was in the furnace. Toshiko compared periods of sculptures’ baking in the furnace with the birth and the acquisition of a soul (Stevens, 74).
Toshiko set special furnaces in her own studio. Those furnaces were designed on the basis of her own specific requirements. She compared the process of creating a sculpture with a dance that brought her joy and peace. Identification with dance is one of the main principles of Japanese aesthetics. Toshiko could feel a special feeling with touching products. The artist was trying to convey in her sculptures both visual quality and sound. Sound of the surf, the howling wind, and rustling leaves lived within each of her sculptures.
Toshiko’s art works were filled with the traditional Japanese much more than any other existing artistic works. In addition, the American culture has also left its imprint on the work of the artist. Her work is characterized by dynamics and contemporary quality. This can be seen in the combinations of multiple colors.
Each sculpture is hollow inside, and each cavity has clay balls. When one moves one of her sculptures they can hear very different sounds that vary, depending on the speed of displacement and angle at which a sculpture is situated. Each sound is unique in nature and is not the same. Toshiko argued that it is the sculpture’s "sound of the soul" (Stevens, 74). She compared her work with fragments of nature or with people claiming that, there are no similar people and each person has a unique character.
Ceramic art is the production of various objects made of clay. Initially, making pottery is an ancient kind of folk crafts. Since ancient times, the art of pottery served to men. They differ in the raw materials used, the composition of glaze coating method of production, and according to the destination. Wherever there were natural reserves of clay suitable for processing, masters of pottery could create all sorts of shapes and decorating of pots, pitchers, bowls, jars, dishes, vases, and many other items needed in the home. Ductility of a material and its tone color palette of glazes diversity gave the product a rich and variegated color, contributed to the fact that the pottery was carried out not only utilitarian function, they became works of art (Crockery, 105).
In Japanese religion, the elements of nature have a direct relationship with the spirits. The veneration of nature and clay permeates all creation of Toshiko Takaezu. The artist loved clay since childhood; and soon, she realized that it is an ideal material for the realization of its ideas even during training in the art of ceramics. Toshiko was sure that the clay is a natural and alive material, and even after the clay dries, it can breathe and stay alive. The process of interaction of the master and clay can be called a moment of creation. Toshiko often told the ancient myths from ancient Egyptian mythology associated with the help of clay. She also loved the ancient Japanese mythology.
In 1955, while studying at the University, Toshiko decided to visit Japan. She spent eight months in a Buddhist monastery, where she studied and a described the culture of antiquity. The artist found a lot of similarities between the art of ceramics and the tea ceremony. Any tea ceremony includes pottery that is made specifically for tea. Union of water, clay, and green tea embodies the high harmony of the Eastern culture (Sewell, 42-44). Selected green tea is the central part of the ceremony. Pottery plays an important role in the tea ceremony. All vessels are carefully selected and each is created manually. The purity of tea and the clay quality clay are very important in the tea ceremony. The tea utensils and water should not be covered with oils or foreign odor, because they may damage the natural taste of tea. Toshiko found much in common in tea and creating his sculptures. Toshiko has had a lot of friends who supported her during the difficult moments of her old age.
WORKS ABOUT TOSHIKO
There are several projects that cover topics of the artist’s creativity. There was created a number of catalogs for those who wished to take a broader look at her work. J. Stanley Yak wrote a book called "The Earth in Bloom," which details the work of the artist and is filled with illustrations of almost all of her works. The author met with Toshiko at university in the early years of her work. Her works impressed J. Stanley Yak so much that he continued to study its symbolism and principles of creation for many years. Many American-Japanese art exhibitions devote a separate place to her works. For example, one of the most recent exhibitions in New York presented most of her works in the form of "clay forests." The exhibition includes her early works, which were larger in size than the following ones (McClelland, 97).
Many call Toshiko’s work "koans", believing that these objects defy rational thinking and go beyond the reality. In the everyday world, where everything is changing almost every minute, Toshiko’s works can help to deal with stress. One, looking at her sculptures, could meditate. According to the artist, the forms of her sculptures symbolize peace and could lead to spiritual enlightenment through contemplation. Toshiko created abstract art objects of clay and sand, for instance, the giant drops or complex elements of DNA. Her work has been a very time-consuming process, which combined the craft of ceramics and techniques of the modern abstract sculpture. The most important visual feature of this work is that, like any work of clay, Toshiko’s sculptures react to a change of lighting and acquire a completely different look while moving in space (Nemmers, 2012).
Toshiko Takezo is one of the most unique representatives of the ceramic art. Her career stands at a level with her uncommon lifestyle. Toshiko’s works combine the fusion of two completely different cultures, the American and Japanese cultures; and this is considered one of her major achievements. Takaezu’s ability to combine harmoniously the American and Japanese aesthetics in one single object is not inherent in many masters. Evolution of Toshiko’s painting affects its ceramic area of creativity. At the very beginning of her work, Toshiko Takaezu was considered as the artist; and in the middle of her career, it was possible to see the integration of her art into the ceramic art. Availability of painting in Toshiko’s sculptures makes the perception of the object more abstract and changes perceptions. Perhaps if Toshiko Takaezu had not lived all her life in the United States as a Japanese person by birth, her work would not leave the boundaries of the classical art of Ceramics.
Anderson, Dan. "Toshiko Takaezu 1922-2011." Ceramics: Art & Perception June 2011: 105.
Loke, Margarett. "Global Visions." Artnews 91.10 (1992): 18.
McClelland, David. "The Art Of Toshiko Takaezu: In The Language Of Silence." Library
Merino, Tony Dubis. "Form And Energy." Ceramics Monthly 46.3 (1998): 37.
Nemmers, Laura K., Allysa Browne Peyton, and Jason Steuber. "In Memory of Toshiko
Takaezu." Ceramics: Art & Perception Mar. 2012: 110+.
Stevens, Mark. "Harmonic Convergence." New York 30.26 (1997): 74.
Sewell, Darrell. "The Poetry Of Clay: THE ART OF TOSHIKO TAKAEZU." Ceramics
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