Offsite Gallery October 23 – November 27, 2015 “The Forest, A Fairy Tale” a joint exhibition with Jean Peacock

Akiko Tanaka is an award winning ceramic artist who divides her time between Tokyo, Japan, where she was born, and Hampton Virginia, in the United States.

Akiko’s work is a combination of traditional Japanese handbuilding and modern influences. She first discovered the simple joy of clay as a child at eight years old. She would later say of her first experience touching clay: “I made an impression on the clay, but the clay also made an impression on me”. After graduating from art school she began a prestigious but creatively unfulfilling period as a freelance animator. The desire to work with clay and express her own ideas never left her, however; and she eventually began working as both a free lance animator, and a ceramic artist.

Over a period of years, she searched out many famous traditional ceramic artists in Japan, and was inspired by their spirit and technique. At last she attended the first Japanese exhibition of revolutionary American ceramic artist Peter Voulkos. This show unsettled her rigid preconceptions of ceramic art. Although she was later to be influenced by such artists as Lee Bentecou, it was the fundamental experience of the art of Peter Voulkos which dispatched her on a life long quest to break with tradition. She had found a new world, and was determined to someday come to America.

It wouldn’t be long before she met American gospel singer Geri Hollins, who was visiting Japan, and the two became friends. As it turned out, Ms. Hollins was looking for a ceramics teacher to teach African American children in a private school. Akiko accepted the offer, and was soon boarding a plane to historic Hampton Virginia, where she would continue to visit for the next 16 years to this day.

Akiko has been a guest artist at both Hampton University and Christopher Newport University where gave workshops and demonstrations for students. She has conducted workshops for both children and adults in the United States, Japan, Sri Lanka and Bulgaria.

She has shown her work for the past 20 years in Japan, and the past 16 years in the United States; most recently in New York City’s Cavin Morris Gallery and Hampton University Museum. She is a certified Art Clay Silver Senior Instructor in both the United States and Japan. For over ten years she has served as an ambassador to Virginia for the charity group Empty Bowls Japan.

In response to the uneasy atmosphere following the attacks of 9-11, she created the international friendship project called Wind of Peace, using ceramic wind chimes. The first Wind of Peace was displayed in downtown Hampton Virginia in 2002, and the second was created in Saitama Prefecture, Japan. In 2004 she undertook the project in Harajuku, Tokyo; then again in Kitaku, Japan. In 2006 she traveled to Sri Lanka to create the Wind of peace project with local children. One of her greatest learning experiences was when for ten years she taught ceramics to the blind in Japan. She learned that when it comes to art, blind people ironically have fewer restrictions than sighted people.

“I love the symbolism of the seed. Inside one seed is sustenance for one thousand generations. Inside one seed are millions of people waiting to be born. To me the seed represents both eternity and the future. The seed never dies. It only recycles forever; reborn in a new shape; only to return to the earth and start again.

I see the seed reflected in the infinity symbol, and the three dimensional mobius loop, which I have begun to incorporate into my art. As the seed continues to speak through me, I will continue to make its presence known through the fruit of my work.”

-Akiko Tanaka

“Akiko has the ability to transform clay into mesmerizing forms that evoke a sense of whimsy and delight. Her dedication to her craft is undeniable. When you view her work you can feel the energy she puts forth to create every intricate impression or curve. Wires and unexpected elements at times protrude outward or from atop giving a sensation of her energy extending into infinity. If you have the pleasure of meeting Akiko you will understand how infectious her kindness is and how truly sincere her intentions are to make a lasting impression but most importantly to just make you smile.” Dorothy Coakley


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