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Artist Conversation #5

Artist: Kiyomi Fukui
Exhibition:The Green Thumb Project
Media: MFA in Printmaking: CSULB; BFA in Graphic Design: La Sierra University
Gallery: Max L. Gatov Gallery West
Instagram: @kiyomimiz

Kiyomi Fukui Nannery is a Japanese-American artist who works and lives in Long Beach, CA. She received her MFA in Printmaking here at CSULB and her BFA in Graphic Design at La Serra University. Although, she doesn’t only produces print-based artwork. Kiyomi also practices participatory performance and fiber arts, such as tatting and crocheting. Her main focus is capturing transient intimacy, irrespective of media.

 photo credit:  Isabel Avila

One piece of art that Kiyomi says is her favorite is the Green Thumb project. It is a project that she started in November of 2014, right before her mother passed away. She started it by taking a mold of her mother’s thumb. Kiyomi used that thumb mold to create white paper mache replicas, in which seeds were planted and grown out of. Once growing, the sprouts and thumb replicas are then placed into a larger pot, and eventually a small garden. The thumbs do lose their color and become more dirty when planted, however they are biodegradable and will decompose into the dirt overtime. On the surface, its almost impossible to tell that the result in the form of a bright green plant started in something as unusual as a paper thumb. In the gallery, her project is presented as six raised-bed planters, two tables that display plants in various stages of growth, accompanied by a faint audio recording of her voice describing the growth of the sprouts, one table that functioned as a paper-casting station, and a collaged printed work. The paper-casting station hosted an assortment of seed packets and a large glass container holding multiple sprouting paper-casted thumbs.

 raised beds fabricator: Michael VanOverbeck  photo credit:  Isabel Avila

This project has a lot of emotional attachment to Kiyomi. Her mother was incapable of speaking when she took the mold of her thumb, but she saw the expression on her face as she enjoyed the feeling of her thumb being pressed against the silicone. The thumb held all of Kiyomi’s last memories with her mother. The thumbs can be thought of as a relic, produced from her sentiment. However, in the process of caring for the thumbs, the efforts and numerous failures took on another layer of meaning. There are ups and downs that come with growing the thumbs; it is a relationship. For Kiyomi, this complex experience is healing. Loss is universal, but healing comes in many forms. She hopes to reflect one form of healing here, where the coping from loss is merged with daily life activity, producing further feelings to feel.

 photo credit:  Isabel Avila

Looking at everything that went in to this project, I can only be in awe. I can’t imagine the emotions Kiyomi was feeling as she had the mold before she started. I’ve personally never lost a family member, which I am blessed to say. I often get scared of how it will feel if I lose someone close to me. But everyone meets their end one day, no matter who you are. We can hold on to the memories of our loved ones when they pass, but having a tangible way to remember someone like Kiyomi did is beautiful and the most honoring. This inspires me to cherish my loved ones every moment I can and hold on to things that hold memories.

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