A few years ago I met two of the Guerilla Girls, and did some group projects with them. I remember that day somewhat vividly; my previous class had gotten out late, and when I arrived out of breath to the classroom, everyone was transfixed on what the GG’s were saying. Introductions had been already done, and I honestly felt like I was walking into a Planet of the Apes movie. Hah. I quickly took my seat. Later that night I went to a performance they put on, which was interesting to say the least, and a bit radical in it’s far-fetched nature. To be a man in that audience… terrifying.
1.Why are you an artist?
I have always loved art, but what makes me an artist is the fact that I love creating. For some reason, I was given this drive to “make” and I’m always thinking of new ways to convey something. I hardly ever sit still, and if I am that’s probably because I’m daydreaming or thinking of my next project. Check out www.nikki.7down8up.com to see my work!
2. Is there a concept behind your work? If so, please tell us about it.
My work stems from the struggle within myself to find my place, my niche, or where I belong. My mom is full Japanese, while my father is German/Irish/Scottish. I was born and raised in Hawaii, and was always surrounded by my mom’s side of the family, (all Japanese). I grew up in a house that had belonged to my mother’s uncle, he was an art collector, who often took trips to Japan to acquire more. Thus I grew up around very traditional Japanese pieces, kakemono, Shinto style interior designs, woodblock prints, and silk screens. My grandparents were also a huge influence on me as a child, and taught me most of what I know about our culture. That being said, it is important to note that I looked like a white kid with red hair. Basically any local who saw me, probably had a lot of assumptions about me, my upbringing, and my loyalty to my home. I didn’t exactly blend in and I found that my identity changed depending on what kind of situation I was in, and what was called for… to survive and thrive in the islands.
Attending a university in Oregon, I had no problems adapting, and was better equipped to observe the locals (from my previous environment), trying to work the new system. This started me on my investigation of identity formation in our culture. The backgrounds that come together to form my identity dominate in both physical and traditional ways, illustrating that one ethnicity may be absorbed by the more dominant or accepted side. Exploring this tension in myself, gives insight as to how identity is not just the state of remaining the same.
3. Why do you use the medium that you use?
I use pen and ink (or Adobe Photoshop for my digital pieces)! I love detail– having control of the medium is a must, to get my desired effect. My strongest skill would have to be drawing in pen, so I took that to a new level by doing it on canvas. I just love the way I can blend colors and “paint” while still staying true to my style.
4. Are there symbols in your work? If so, please elaborate.
Tons of symbols. I’ve always loved eyes, not expressive ones, but blank stares. It represents mystery and the unknown, that impenetrable fortress of the mind. I use a lot of fish (koi) which remind me so fondly of my younger years (I also happen to be a Pisces, but I really don’t follow that junk), specific flowers like lotus which stands for rebirth/renewing, also– trees… I just love using trees. They seem like arms coming out of arms trying to reach up into the sky. I like stairs, bridges… things that take us places or lead elsewhere, doors, windows, masks, clouds and other imagery to create a dreamlike quality to my pictures. That probably didn’t make sense, but I could go on forever.
5. Tell us why your work has so much information squeezed into it–why the collage of images?
I realized somewhat later in life that I feel things very strongly, whether it be joy, frustration, etc. It was important for me to create pieces that made people FEEL something. Personally, I find myself drawn to the images that are complicated and beg the viewer to dig deeper… anything that reveals more on second inspection. I also think that people are more affected when they are confronted with imagery that overwhelms them, whether it be with color or through design. Adding the conceptual nature of my work I feel like I am being very systematic in creating chaos, while still making a thing of beauty. I think that explains why I have such an obsession with space, and emphasizing exactly where one form ends and the next begins.
6. What is the role of the artist in our society? and in Oregon?
As far as the popular artists in our society, I would say their role is to continue to try to shock us, create novelty pop culture pieces, or to highlight/rethink current issues. As far as the role of the artist in Oregon… it’s hard to say. I moved here to further my education, and since graduating made the next logical step by moving to Portland. I see a lot of artists trying to replicate the natural beauty of the area, while others seem to have a style that looks very similar to much of what is already out there. I feel that the Oregonians like to put their alternate views and lifestyles on canvas. That says quite a bit.
7. Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?
I would hope that 5 years more experience would lend itself to a more refined version of my current style. Being able to have solo shows in galleries and see my artwork shown internationally would be amazing. I am also excited by the possibility that I could be living in another city, or maybe another country. I lived in London a couple years ago, and absolutely loved it. I would also like to spend time in Japan.
8. What are your ultimate goals as an artist?
To continue to create beautiful pieces of art with substance. Art that speaks deeper about our society, and humans in general. To utilize my style and illustrate perceptions that people can connect with would reach one goal as an artist. My ultimate goal would be turning this passion for art into my full-time job… that would be a dream come true.
9. What does art mean to you?
Art has the potential to do so many things… lift spirits, make people laugh, imagine, dream, bring back childhood memories… it’s what I know. Art is where I can make something that existed only in my mind a reality. That is a powerful feeling.
Artist’s Website: http://www.nikki.7down8up.com/
Mid Sept/Oct I took a little break from drawing.