Kaori Takamura’s graphic paintings and constructions at first glance seem to be constructed quilts with printed fabric, but are in actuality machine-stitched silkscreened images on canvas. Takamura is inspired by American hand-made quilt-making and embroidery traditions. She borrows iconic traditional Americana patterns, along with updated symbols found in signage, typography, and modern fabrics to good use. By patching together cut up colorful canvas bits, she tells her layered story as an Arizona-based, Japanese-born artist.
On close inspection, the viewer notices that the colored threads connecting the canvas scraps are frayed and fall loosely, while the silkscreened images are not always crisp and clean. Even though the fragmented pieces are securely sewn, and the printmaking assured, the impression strived for is one of an intentioned tangled patchwork of thoughts and ideas. While referencing crafting traditions, she uses machines to sew and does not sentimentalize or feel nostalgia for time-consuming hand sewing. Her ideas are about her world today.
Kaori Takamura has an accomplished background as a packaging designer, and she is keenly aware of how commercial art works by drawing people in, and keeping them interested. At the same time, she continues the tradition of American women who tell their stories with hand-made crafts for future generations.
Not only is that combination of ideas interesting, but also historically, both traditional women’s handicraft, and graphic design are often times not taken seriously by the art world at large. Her work equally gives respect to the woman craft makers, such as the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend, while being inspired by graphic and poster designers like Ikko Tanaka. Takamura’s confidence in combining craft and the commercial arts brings a pure and strong beauty to her work.
To enhance your experience of this exhibit, I recommend heading over to the Project Room of the Mesa Arts Center to see the work of Maggy Rozycki Hiltner. Her room-filling embroidery installation, Vantage Point, is an interesting companion to Takamura’s patchwork paintings. In addition, (former commercial artist) Andy Warhol’s Portraits at the Phoenix Art Museum show is a terrific way to see a pop master’s influence on contemporary artists.