Urgent Museum Notice

5 Questions with Mimi Kato

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
View of the museum from outside showing the Neoclassical building from one corner. The building is a tan-colored stone with an arched doorway, long vertical windows, and detailed molding around the roof.

The fourth installment of NMWA’s biennial exhibition series, Organic Matters—Women to Watch 2015 is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition’s artists redefine the relationship between women, art, and nature. Associate Curator Virginia Treanor spoke with emerging and contemporary women artists featured in Organic Matters.
Organic Matters—Women to Watch 2015
Artist: Mimi Kato
Nominating committee: Ohio Advisory Group / Consulting curators: Reto Thüring, Cleveland Museum of Art; Rose Bouthillier, MOCA Cleveland
1. Organic Matters includes art that refers or responds to the natural world. How do you think your work Landscape Retreat: In the Woods relates to the theme of nature?

Mimi Kato; Photo by Robert Muller, Courtesy of Cleveland Institute of Art
Mimi Kato; Photo by Robert Muller, Courtesy of Cleveland Institute of Art

My interest in nature and landscape stems from my longing for the familiar landscape of my home, Japan. Drawing landscape from my memories, photographs, and online street views, I started to think about our daily landscape and how our lives, activities, and actions constantly affect its form.
Exploring urban landscapes, I noticed many green spaces hidden under and between urban structures, such as under highway bridges and empty abandoned lots. These green spaces do not come to mind when we talk about nature even though they function in an ecosystem, supporting the lives of plants and animals. The series “Landscape Retreat” focuses on one such landscape by analyzing human perception and categorization of nature.
2. Is this work representative of your oeuvre? How does it fit into your larger body of work?
Yes. Inspired by theater, especially Japanese traditional mask theater and contemporary Butoh, I started to perform in my work. Every figure presented in my work is me, conveying the narratives of the compositions through poses and acts. My interest, ideas, and narratives have shifted over time; however the performance aspect remains and is also present in the series “Landscape Retreat.” The process of my work, performing, sewing costumes, making props, and directing narratives, resembles the process of the theater and I often refer to my work as one-person theater.
Mimi Kato, Landscape Retreat: In the Woods (detail), 2012; Archival pigment print diptych, each print 28 x 65 in.; Courtesy of the artist
Mimi Kato, Landscape Retreat: In the Woods (detail), 2012; Archival pigment print diptych, each print 28 x 65 in.; Courtesy of the artist

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?
The most essential tool for me is curiosity. Asking many “why” questions to even the most mundane things that surround our lives could reveal new findings.
Recently, I collaborated on a project with the invasive plants management crew from the Cleveland Metroparks. This project started with a very simple question about familiar plants from Japan in the American landscape: “Why are they here?” Following this curiosity and finding the answers, the project pushed me out of my routine studio practice, leading to a collaboration and site-specific installation. A simple question opened up a new possibility and challenges in my art practice.
I believe curiosity is an essential tool in any field and can enrich and strengthen one’s thinking process and way finding.
4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and/or influence?
Things that surround me, especially landscapes at this moment. It is fascinating to see how we humans have been marking our existence in the landscape.
5. What’s the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?
Forty-Part Motet by Janet Cardiff at Cleveland Museum of Art, The Paradise Institute also by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, and The Visitors by Ragnar Kjartansson at Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

Related Posts

  • Art Fix Friday: March 5, 2021

    Posted: Mar 05, 2021 in Art Fix Friday
    An expansive profile on LaToya Ruby Frazier in the New York Times Magazine; Japanese artist Toko Shinoda has died at age 107; and more.
    A black-and-white photograph of a light-skinned adult woman holding a newspaper with news about World War II. She wears a coat and her short, curly hair is caught in the wind.
    Blog Category:  Art Fix Friday
  • Director’s Desk: Editing for Equity

    Posted: Mar 04, 2021 in Director's Desk
    Join us for our next Wikipedia Edit-a-thon this Saturday, March 6, when we will improve or create entries for women artists of African descent whose work is in NMWA’s collection.
    A woman with ombré dreadlocks sits at a table working on her laptop. Two other women are doing the same thing at different tables directly behind and in front of the woman.
    Blog Category:  Director's Desk
  • Now Open—Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle, and Mend

    Posted: Mar 03, 2021 in NMWA Exhibitions
    This midcareer survey features approximately 100 of Clark's mixed-media works that probe identity and visibility, appraise the force of the African Diaspora, and redress history.
    Two head caps made of small, blue glass beads rest on two black mannequin heads. The two caps are connected at the tops by a beaded chain. The left cap is made of darker blue beads and the right cap is made of lighter blue beads. The chain combines both shades.
    Blog Category:  NMWA Exhibitions