Hello and Thank You for being here with us. We're pleased to present Tomoko Suzuki's wonderful, thoughtful, full of life figures to the Art Space. In a way, sculptures are a metaphor for these times we are living through – suspended animation. These figures are dancing, flying, floating, falling and remind us that we can do the same. Our hope is that art will provide a break from the news or routine – to float, recline, and dance like no one is watching! Thank you for stopping by, and as always, stay safe, healthy and take care. -KOBO Staff
Closing Show Interview with Tomoko:
Kobo: Buddhism is central to your life. How does it shape and inform your artistic practice?
Tomoko: My daily practice helps me to believe in myself and my vision, not to give into the negativities, helps me see the beauty in life’s struggles and turn that into art.
It also keeps me focused and balanced. I am a Boddhisattva stripped bare, I still have something to give.
K: You've referenced Chubbies in your work as reflective of the Bodhisattva. What made you focus on this particular form?
T: I love abstraction. During my art school days, I tended to focus on lines and shapes that were round and organic. Drawing from my love of figurative drawings, I came up with round figurative forms that described the state of my emotions and life conditions more honestly and directly.
K: As the Chubbies go to new homes, do you have any hopes for what they bring to their new environments?
T: I hope for my art to be a reminder of joy and humor in a human being.
K: What is the most fulfilling thing about being an artist? What do you like most about making?
T: The creative process in itself is something that is essential to my life. It’s a bit like doing yoga. I am okay if I don’t do yoga, but when I do, I feel rejuvenated and powerful. Making art makes me feel powerful, like I have everything I need right where I am, just the way I am. Being an artist makes me unique. It gives me something to be proud of. Being able to make art each day give me a sense of mission, sense of my place in society, sense of contribution to the world
K: What is the most challenging? When you reach a difficult point in the creative process, what compels you to continue?
T: It is challenging to take myself seriously as an artist at times. I go back to my Buddhist practice of chanting, reminding myself of the vow I made during my art school to become an artist who can inspire hope through my art. I talk to other artists. I take a walk in the woods.
K: What goals do you have for the future?
T: My short term goal is to expand my studio for both printmaking and clay processes. My long term goal is to provide free art lessons in local communities.
Tomoko's stoneware Figures are one-of-a-kind pieces are available for purchase. Tomoko's wonderful art prints (see below) are in the Art & Craft section of our web shop. They were printed with Lynda Sherman + Bremelo Press, in Seattle, WA. We love them, and hope you do too.
Tomoko Suzuki was born and raised in Japan. She moved to the United States after graduating high school to study English as she searched for something she can feel passionate about and pursue as a career. Printmaking was her first love in the Arts. She received an MFA in Printmaking from California State University in Long Beach. Despite her academic accomplishments, her path in her art career has been a narrow and winding road. She pressed on as an artist while raising her family and eventually moving to Washington State. Fortunately, Tomoko encountered KOBO where many of her new works are currently displayed and sold.
You will recognize her chubby and full of life figures as her main subject in her sculpture and her prints. These figures and their environment are inspired by her Buddhist practice.
In Buddhism, the Lotus Flower is a symbol of enlightenment. It grows and blossoms out of a muddy pond. While the Lotus symbolizes enlightenment, the muddy pond represents a symbol of earthly desires. In my artistic endeavor, I intend to express a metaphoric diagram of the muddy pond of earthly desires. It embodies the drama of converting suffering into a state of absolute happiness.
Bosatsu is a Japanese word for “Bodhisattva” originated as a Sanskrit word for a “being who aspires to Buddhahood.” Bosatsu carry out altruistic practices to achieve enlightenment and are compassionate beings who postpone their own entry into Nirvana in order to lead others toward enlightenment. The plump figures, which I call “Chubbies”, are the predominant icons in my art and my visual interpretation of the Bodhisattvas. These Bodhisattvas are struggling and suffering in order to advance to enlightenment while helping others to do the same, in the muddy pond of earthly desires.
I have established a solid identity as a Buddhist, and recognize this as a core heritage of my life. This permeates deep within me; deeper than my nationality, ethnicity, or gender. Through my artistic endeavor, I wish to manifest the true nature of my life: Buddhahood. Ultimately, the purpose of my art is to deliver a positive message that each ordinary being possesses the power to transform one's life and environment for the better, regardless of external circumstances.
(originally published May 14, 2020)
My mother tows me in the red Radio Flyer to Higo’s in Japantown when the Smith Tower looms tallest west of the Mississippi and the sidewalks on Jackson Street are knotty planks.