Kazumi Tanaka: Mother and Child Reunion

Kazumi Tanaka, Silk fabric made using the Shibori-Zome technique (a traditional Japanese resist and dye processes), 2014. Silk. (Image courtesy of Fabric Workshop and Museum)

Kazumi Tanaka's Mother and Child Reunion at the Fabric Workshop and Museum consists of silkscreens, fabric sculpture, video and personal artifacts. Each print depicts hand drawn diagrams seemingly floating on warm off-white linen. Upon closer inspection, you'll find a miniature tansu (traditional Japanese storage cabinets) perched upon each silkscreen and notice the diagrams are plans for constructing tansu. This tension between the meticulous craft of the doll-house size tansu and the large, luminous plans is emblematic of the shifts in scale and material that Tanaka is known for.


Born in Osaka, Japan, and based in Beacon, NY, Tanaka returned to her childhood home last year to be with her mother as she recovered from a stroke. There is an old Japanese custom of saving a child's umbilical cord in a wooden box with the intention that the mother will eventually return the box to the child as a way of acknowledging the unique relationship they once shared. During her recent trip, Tanaka's mother returned her umbilical cord box to her. Inspired by her childhood memories, Tanaka began to consider tansu and what is contained by them. This became the starting point for Tanaka's work as the FWM's artist-in-residence.


Upon entering the exhibit, the first object you're greeted with is Tanaka's mother's tansu (which contains her umbilical cord). Added to the exhibition at the last minute, this authentic, personal item creates a wonderful frisson between sentimental object and fabricated art item that is palpable throughout the exhibit. Through many trials and experiments, the FWM's six-person team was able to simulate the look of aged paper in the large-scale silkscreens that dominate the exhibit. Working with the FWM team was Tanaka’s first extensive collaborative effort and also her first experience working with fabric. As a sculptor who usually works with wood, fabric presented new challenges for Tanaka. Over time, the parallels between wood and fabric became apparent: similar to wood, fabric has grain direction and warps if it is handled incorrectly. Tanaka’s agile tactile sensibility extends to the centerpiece of the exhibit, a large fabric sculpture reminiscent of an umbilical cord. Using traditional Japanese fabric dye methods that she learned in Japan, this floor-based sculpture of pleated silk centers the room and serves as an elegant childhood reminder.


The FWM is hosting a public reception on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014, from 6 - 8 pm. The exhibit is on view till November 9th, For more information, please visit their website.

Miyama, Kyoto prefecture, Japan. 2014. Kazumi Tanaka visited with traditional Japanese dye master and artist Hiroyuki Shindo in this mountain village. (image courtesy of the Fabric Workshop and Museum).

Written by: Elliot Walters