A Japanned Cell – Note on Kana Harada’s installation at the Old Jail Art Center

Kana Harada

Albany, Texas is about as far away from Tokyo as you can get, but Kana Harada has brought her cherry blossoms to the Old Jail Art Center. For a fleeting period of spring time, the 19th century jail is infused with meditative zen.

Kana moved from Tokyo with her husband, an expatriate from Texas Instruments, to Dallas a decade ago. Starting from 2008, she began to explore three dimensional works with found objects and foam sheet-based installation.

Kana Harada

Those foam sheets are nothing unusual. They can be bought at crafts stores like Michael’s. Leather light and soft, the pliant sheets enable the artist to cut, bend or glue shapes into an ensemble of nature wonders. The foam sheets are often dyed or painted, with limited range of pastel colors. One could almost smell that modern Japanese aesthetics — clean, light, animated, while, at the same time, possibly glean the traditional Japanese style underneath – two dimensional imageries with flattened shapes. In particular, the flowers, when observed in close proximity, look rather cartoonish. Their strict geometry speaks of a synthetic nature delineated through cut patterns. Georgia O’Keefe would have disagreed with the lack of subtle transitions in hues and values; but Murakami could see in them the essential liveliness of manga and anime.

What saves the installation from being merely crafts is the oriental succinctness that Kana instills into the works. She exudes fluidity in orchestrating found objects with crafted ones into an organic presentation. Such presentations, like traditional oriental art, carry the efficiency in abstracting the nature into morsels of ordinary elements. As the result, the nature, instead of telling, invites contemplation.

Kana HaradaWhen I walked upstairs and bounced into the blossomed twigs, it triggered the same kind of excitement as seeing solitary flowers of winter jasmine in an early spring excursion (from my childhood in China). Twigs and stem are bare, as are the cases in the installation. Light came through the fenced window and shone on rough-hewed walls. The delicate flowers, like a Calder’s mobile, swung slowly, with a mesmerizing rhythm. Time seemed to have suspended for that momentary quietude.

Whether it is in Japan or Texas, not long do blossoms last – Cherry flowers peak only for a week while Texas’ spring will be gone before one notices it. Thus, in an eerie setting where time would have been irrelevant to the original occupants, the installation could not be more pertinent in expressing the ephemeral nature of life.photo

Kana Harada’s Anything You Want exhibition will be shown at the Old Jail Art Center in Albany TX until May 19, 2013.

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