In an ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space” where I talk to artists that have a gallery space at CSULB, this week I delve into the work of Kiyomi Fukui and her ever-changing gallery space. If you think about it, Kiyomi is kind of magician to have her gallery continuously change everyday throughout the week just like the changing of visitors that would continually come in and out of the show (I shall break the magician code this week! And explain her magic trick later, it’s a doozy).
(Note, this was my first interview of an artist that was not of an acquaintance or friend, I didn’t even know her name when I first spoke to her. She was a blank slate as you might have it, a complete stranger to me however thanks to Kiyomi’s help, the interview went exceedingly well.)
So the story goes like this, I was interviewing Jaycen Mont Rios about his show, .stoned, on a Tuesday afternoon but I couldn’t help but to look across the way to Kiyomi’s gallery, where she sat behind a small table, welcoming guest to her gallery. “Jaycen, what’s going on with that show across from us?”, I inquired to my companion that sat at the table with me. “You mean that gallery over there? It’s a tea ceremony kind of thing. Go get some free tea, man,” he stated in his forever chilled tone of voice. Of course I had to finish my conversation/interview with Jaycen before starting a new interaction with someone else and getting free tea (I do have some sort of manners after all, my mama raised me right). As we kept talking, I would glance back to Kiyomi’s gallery, the Dutzi, to realize that people came and went but would always stop to talk to her even if they didn’t partake in the tea. It was an astounding sight to me because for one, she genuinely wanted to talk to her visitors (I mean, yeah sure, most artists that have had galleries here at school would like to talk to the visitors about art but she interacted with them on a different level, having real conversations that deviated from art onto other life topic, plus it wasn’t artificially forced either) and second, she had actually accumulated an audience for herself in front of her gallery(I want to do that when I have a gallery show).
Having finally finish my interview with Jaycen and waiting for her previous guests to leave the table, I decided that I was thirsty and the only things that would quench this thirst was tea and figuring out what her show was truly about (it couldn’t just be about a tea ceremony, could it?). So I strolled on by to her gallery and said hello. She replied with a smile and, “Hi, would you like some tea?” In my head, I was like, “Hell yes!”, but I decided that “Yes, please. Thank you.” for first impressions would suffice. I casually sat down across from her, she poured me a cup of tea which was a deep rose red color. If you, the reader, inspected the table, you would see that the table was covered by a very reddish purple tablecloth. In the center of the cloth was little shells and other shapes made of sugar that could be used to sweeten your tea. An adorable and very personal touch, seeing as Kiyomi casted the sugar into the shape of all the different objects that she had found during her travels, such as shells.
Now, here is where the magic happened. We just started to talk. Simply put, it was a natural, uncoerced conversation between two human beings. Call me Marty McFly because this is when I entered a time warp, it must have been about 15 minutes (or longer, I don’t know how to estimate time to be honest) before I realized that the tranquil conversation that I had entered, I didn’t even know Kiyomi’s name. I was dumbfounded by this revelation, we had spoken to each other as if we were long time friends just catching up on life. “We’ve been talking for a while now, I forgot all about introductions. Your name is?”, I had to ask, it’s just something I need to know if I’m talking to someone for the first time. “Kiyomi.” “Ki-yo-mi… is that right?” “Yes and your name is?” “Tony.” It’s amazing what type of information you can get when you’re in a very welcoming and unfenced conversation. She had received a BFA in Graphic Design from another college and while she was tending to that degree, she also found a love for Printmaking. Thus, this is why she’s at CSULB now, to get a MFA degree in Printmaking. Kiyomi isn’t a party animal, so one on one (or sometimes 4 on 1 for her case) face to face interactions are very important to her. As you can see with the way she set up her show, she took on the challenge to have as many face to face interactions as possible (a ballsy move, but one that comes with a great deal of courage to pull off) in where she created a judgement free-zone. The goal for her was accept the person and their words at true face value and to listen to their stories with no ill intent. The original intent of her show however, as she told me, was a place for people to share their insecurities and to accept them but it evolved into a more positive route because as people began to speak to her, it just became more cheery and explorative in nature of the people she spoke too.
So I told you I would reveal the magic trick of the daily-changing-gallery show of Kiyomi and so I will. I just thoroughly explained one part of it, the people that stopped by the gallery. Each visitor was a key to this mystery because they helped change the gallery space. As I continued to drink my hibiscus tea, Kiyomi asked me if I would spill some it on the tablecloth (in truth, I didn’t want to waste a drop of it because it was so delicious but she’s the artist after all so I couldn’t say no) because she actually took each cloth at the end of the day and hung it in her gallery. With each new visitor was a new spill, a new drop, a new stain, ultimately a new piece of art to be hung. That week everyone had left a remnant (keyword for all you taking notes) with Kiyomi. Second part of the magic was the tea; she explained to me that tea, if you think about it, tea are tiny remnants of something much bigger such as a plant or a herb but when tiny remnants are collected from all over and mixed together it forms something amazing such as tea. Something that was once alive, now beautifully repurposed for something else. The tablecloth was a remnant of a tree, the sugar was casted from the remnants of nature, we as visitors were remnants with our stories, our spills, our drips. We left Kiyomi a small part of ourselves when we chose to interact with her that week but she also left a small part of herself with us that week (with free tea and sugar!). And that my friends, is the real magic, when she gave us something physical to grasp such as tea, sugar, and comfort but what she gets in return is instead incorporeal, such as our time, memories, and stories. However, as any good magician would have it, just when we thought the magic trick was over, we realized at the end that we were grasping her time, memories, and stories the whole time. I applaud you Kiyomi for a such masterful show.
Finally a little gift for you, the reader, I would like to leave you with a poem(also the artist statement) from the artist herself that she delightfully categorized as “positive propaganda”. It is called Reminiscing Remnants: Survival List for the Scary World,
“Consuming traces of life, which means eating and drinking
Finding a connection to the person in front of you
To be comfortable breathing in someone else’s CO2
Love what you love
See what the person in front of you loves
Pay a tiny a bit of care, whether you love it or not
Share the good stuff
Share the bad stuff
Leave your marks
Look back with love Read too much into
Forget about it
Reminisce the remnants”