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mariko kusumoto’s magical metal worlds

Mariko Kusumoto captures remnants of her memories of Japan and sets them to motion by assembling these fragments of everyday life into elaborate fabricated metal box constructions – many resembling pop-up books or miniature stage sets with movable parts, gears that rotate and detailed imagery.


{click images to enlarge}

Self Entertainment Kit, open: 17″ x 34.5″ x 3″

Self Entertainment Kit, detail

“Within the relatively small size of my works, I am striving to create a world of shadows, light, silence, spirituality, and my personal memories.”

Doors, drawers and compartments open to reveal jewelry or tiny metal sculptures that move – both figuratively and literally. Kusumoto’s brilliant imagination is pure magic and the combination of wit, humor and masterful craftsmanship will have you under her spell.

Mobilia Gallery created a series of stop motion animation videos of her work – watch all of them (really, you must!) and you will understand why a photograph isn’t enough to get a sense of the details and intricacies of each piece.

Racine Art Museum is currently hosting Kusumoto’s Unfolding Stories, a traveling exhibit of her work organized by Mobilia Gallery.  You can see these utterly exquisite pieces through January 23, 2011 at RAM.

Tokyo Souvenir: Wearable pieces in individual containers
open, 7.5″ x 35″ x 20″

A bracelet from Tokyo Souvenir
One of many, many wearable pieces from this vignette

From Mobilia Gallery’s website:

“A brilliant technician, Mariko Kusumoto masterfully fabricates and embellishes box constructions with a myriad of metalsmithing skills including etching, electroforming, and patination. With astounding attention to detail she explores interior spaces, deftly transforming each compartment into interactive miniature theatres, revealing figures and objects with movable parts, rotating gears, and musical mechanisms.”

Ryounkaku, closed: 27″ x 9″ x 1.5″

Ryounkaku, detail

From Mariko Kusumoto’s artist statement:

“My father is a Buddhist priest, and I grew up in a temple that was founded four hundred years ago. While living in the temple, I took the place for granted and didn’t think anything special of it. However, the more time that I spend living in the United States – with its diverse cultures and varied ethnic groups, the more conscious I become of my identity as a Japanese. As the yearning for my temple grows, I gain a greater sense of appreciation of it, as well as of Japanese culture in general. As time goes by, my memories become stronger and more vivid. This feeling is the inspiration of my artwork today.

Metal has been a familiar material to me since I was a child; polishing the elaborate metal ornaments in the altars in my temple was one of my chores. When the gleam of the gold-colored ornaments would emerge from the darkness, I could sense the spiritual world and its eternal silence.”

Many thanks to Racine Art Museum for alerting me to this wonderful artist. Visit RAM to see Kusumoto’s work in action.

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5 Responses to mariko kusumoto’s magical metal worlds

  1. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to meet Mariko at SOFA on several occasions, and was intrigued with her craftsmanship and imagination.
    Her work is unforgettable and brings out the child
    in me whenever I see it! A terrific Feature!

  2. i love it, i love it, i love it!
    a very great artist. in a very simple way i make boxes with my grandson (2) and we put all kind of things in differend ready made boxes, but each time we open them, it’s fun!
    love , riet:)

  3. Mariko’s work is magical. There is so much beauty to take in it is breathtaking. And that would be enough, but she takes it further to include storytelling with elements of surprise and play. My favorite kind of art is the kind that allows the beholder to play. What a treasure to discover all the parts of one of Mariko’s works for yourself! It’s like diving into another world full of wonder.

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