For 2013 Pittsburgh Artist of the year Akiko Kotani, her ideas are best expressed in abstract art. Kotani visited SRU Tuesday afternoon to share her techniques and styles of art with students and faculty.
Born in Hawaii, Akiko Kotani grew up with a passion for drawing. In addition to being the 2013 Pittsburgh Artist of the Year, Kotani is also a former SRU Professor Emerita. She used a plethora of diverse materials in her artwork such as silk organza, glass, bamboo threads, paper and plastic. She strives to create a new language of art with her choice of materials. Kotani’s exhibition also focuses on the element of space. Her artwork emphasizes space and allows it to appear to her audience as nothing.
Her gallery has four featured parts. The entrance of the gallery features a four-layered ceiling piece called Silk Clouds. It consists of silk organza and has stitched curved lines, which can be a very difficult skill to master, Kotani said.
“It takes much discipline, “ she explained.
Her second gallery consists of four different sized panels. It was nature that inspired her to name these panels Wind, Clouds, and Reeds. They each have their own magnitude. The third gallery called Soft Walls presents thousands of square feet of plastic. The plastic bags such as the traditional Wal-Mart or grocery store bags have been cut and looped together into this masterpiece. The plastic flows off the walls that are 18 and 13 feet long. The massive walls create an image of thickness to the piece. Her walls are symbolic in representation of the strength of femininity and motherhood.
Her final gallery features two parts of her work called Views of the Bosphorus. To develop these pieces, she stitched bamboo threads on paper. Her piece is a scenic view of Istanbul’s waters called the Black Sea, something Kotani said she was fascinated by.
Kotani taught in Istanbul for over two years and noticed the beauty of the village where she lived. Kotani said it took her over two and half years to create all her pieces.
Akiko Kotani encouraged students to take a chance with their artistic ideas.
“If you have an idea, do not be afraid to try it,” she said.
Experimenting is a good thing not only in art but also in life, she explained. In her imagination, she believes, there are no rules and everything is up for grabs. This inspired her to start to play around with unusual materials that are not common in art, she said. According to Kotani, there were days that she wanted to give up, but her motivation and discipline helped her to get through. She would also spend two hours in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, and two hours in the evening every day working on her art.
Many art professors and faculty members at SRU were in attendance at Kotani’s presentation as well as some students such as senior art major Chelsea Grubbs, 24, who said she was interested in the materials Kotani used in her work.
“I wanted to learn more about the focus of fiber art and learn more about her experience and working with it,” she said.
Sophomore art major Summer Weinheimer, 19, was also interested in Kotani’s work, especially the abstract.
“Coming to see well established artists helps me to get the feel of how they take normal matters and make them into creative ideas,” she said.
Many students in attendance said they were surprised by Kontani’s work.
Kontani closed her presentation encouraging all students, “Go where your instincts take you.”