Calligraphic Abstractions | Mingei Series Made in Japan


These are the works on paper and abstract hand bound books that came out of an artistic residence in Kama (Fukuoka) Japan. The retreat was led by Monica Dengo and Satsuki Hatsushima, two calligraphic artists from different traditions whose styles complement one another. During the retreat, we explored our own personal mark-making, in the spirit of the Japanese Mingei tradition. In this tradition, there is a handicraft with a particular almost ritualistic technique that is followed and passed down, making the “artist’s” imprint and identity secondary to the craft itself.


We were situated in a mountain town in the Fukuoka region. The center was surrounded by rice fields, hidden temples and rolling hills. On my morning walks, I marveled at the colors and lines of this foreign landscape. Our field trips were inspiring. In one, we made our own paper following an ancient, manual technique. The tools themselves were inspiring alone – minimal designs held together with a minimal amount of hardware, like puzzle pieces. Another day, we were the guests of the region’s great Kuzu producer – kuzu is a starch from a plant grown abundantly there. He offered our group lunch in his gorgeous villa in a dining room adjacent to an indoor koi pond, a treasured experience. Of course we attended our teachers’ art exhibit at the Hiroki Oda Museum, “No Form”, which was pure inspiration from such incredibly talented artists and mentors.


After our excursions, I would return to the studio, moving my brush with intention – yet allowing for abstraction. The work I created is a continuation of my Calligraphic Abstraction series, this one flavored by the  Japanese language, as well as the shapes and sounds of the surrounding landscape.

The culmination of the residence was a group show. With all the works on display, it became clear how truly individual mark making can be. Each artist, given the same ink, paper and brushes, created a unique set of works. I left Japan with a suitcase full of my own work – a spirit ignited with fresh inspiration, and a clear desire to return to this special place.

Videos about my experiences are on both my Instagram and TikTok. Follow me for my ongoing artistic adventures in Rome and abroad.