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  • Lee Parsons, Staff Writer

Intersectional identities in art: The Golden Fruit Exhibit

Art display by Kanani Miyamoto. Photo by Caramia Christensen

Presented by the Salem Art Association, the Golden Fruit exhibit at the Bush Park Gallery is showcasing the work of Kanani Miyamoto, an accomplished artist, educator and curator. Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, she is currently an adjunct professor at Willamette’s Portland campus, the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her exhibit is available to view from Nov. 3 to Dec. 24 and is a testament to Miyamoto's unique blend of Hawaiian and Japanese influences, her dedication to addressing societal issues through art and her innovative approach to presentation.

Miyamoto's artwork, which consists mostly of prints adhered with paste to walls, delves into the complex issues faced by the people of Hawaii. From the impact of tourism and capitalism to the environmental repercussions of agriculture, Miyamoto's pieces are not merely aesthetically pleasing but carry profound messages. Her art serves as a reflection on the challenges and beauty of her homeland.

In a recent presentation about her Bush Park Gallery exhibit, Miyamoto shared insights into the meanings and inspirations behind some of her pieces on display. One of the pieces depicts what she called a “5-Eyed Soulless Snake.” Miyamoto uses a five-eyed snake to symbolize the "Big Five," a group of sugarcane processing corporations that had a detrimental impact on Hawaii’s political infrastructure during the early 20th century. The next piece she discussed was inspired by recent fires in Maui and speaks to the environmental challenges inflicted on the islands. The artwork highlights the harmful consequences of colonized agricultural practices. 

Another piece Miyamoto discussed featured a crane, which she said is a tribute to loyalty, honor and longevity. This crane is also on her grandfather's grave, and its place in the piece is an ode to him. Drawing on Japanese and Hawaiian symbols, Miyamoto intertwines her family's heritage into her work. These pieces and more are still on display, and prints from her digital shop available to buy on-site were also shown. The proceeds of the purchases of her digital work help to raise money for mutual aid funds to help undergraduate art students. 

In reference to her art, Miyamoto stated, “The process is as important as the images in the work.” A large part of her talk centered on this process. Some of the Japanese elements she embraces can be seen in her materials, as she uses Sekishu paper to create her work. For her hand-painted art, Miyamoto gets her paper straight from Japan. The talk became an interactive experience as she passed pieces of Sekishu paper with cranes printed on them around for the audience to feel. 

She discussed how important her tools are to her, saying, “Not only do I have the knowledge of my ancestors shown in my art, I have the knowledge of every artist who used my tools before me.” The paste Miyamoto uses is utilized by a lot of bookbinders, but it is reversible and in fact edible: Miyamoto exclaimed, “You can eat it! It’s just flour!” She explained and demonstrated her process by removing a taped-up exhibit, applying her paste and putting it right back on the wall. Audience members were invited up to the front themselves to paste some smaller prints and learn about and participate in the artistic process.

Since the prints are mounted with just paste, they are easy to remove. They are adhered directly to the wall, but simply spraying the art with water allows Miyamoto to peel the prints off the wall. This gives her the ability to reuse her art when it is done being displayed. One upside to using prints, Miyamoto explained, is that she does not have to deal with frames, packaging or storing. She shared that she has “five exhibits stashed under [her] bed.” Notably, while she reuses her exhibits, they still change drastically. Miyamoto’s compositions are created on-site, so one exhibit will look very different in two different locations despite the same prints and motifs being used. Her differing arrangements and added elements for exhibits each time they are used keep the art fresh and interesting. 

Unlike a lot of artists, Miyamoto doesn’t mind people touching her work. In fact, her pieces are often up in public places, such as when she had an installation in a train station in Seattle for several years. She seems to regard her art as an interactive process and display. Her art can be pasted to more than just walls; The Reser, a center for the arts in Beaverton, will feature her art on all of its windows for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month kickoff event in the spring of 2024. 

Kanani Miyamoto's Golden Fruit exhibit not only captivates with its visually stunning compositions but also invites viewers to contemplate the deeper narratives woven into each piece. Her commitment to cultural heritage and community engagement positions Miyamoto as a dynamic force in the contemporary art scene. Visit the Bush Park Gallery to witness the fusion of Japanese and Hawaiian influences in a display that transcends traditional boundaries, leaving a lasting impression on all who experience it.

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1 Comment

Dec 22, 2023

What a thoughtful article. Very well written, informative, educational, fascinating on how to reuse the prints.

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