Friday Fantasy: Japanese Contemporary Artists

This week’s artist spotlight is a little different – since today is my last day at NMWA, I’m going to highlight some of my favorite artwork! I’ve picked three women from Japan who each have their own distinct style, but all create dreamlike images that evoke Japanese culture. I’m linking to sites of each of their work so you can go check them out! (Note: names are written as they would be in Japanese – surname first, given name second.)

Ninagawa Mika, Princess. © Ninagawa Mika and Lucky Star Co., Ltd.

Ninagawa Mika (Official Site)

Billing herself as “the most popular photographer in Japan,” Ninagawa’s pleasing flower and fish photos take a back seat to her deliciously garish advertising and fashion work. Saturated with bright colors and fanciful costumes, she grabs her compositions by the horns and demands the viewer’s attention. She debuted as a film director in 2007 with Sakuran, which I’ve not seen but am most curious to experience.

Yanagi Miwa, The White Dove, 2005. Gelatin silver print. ©2000-2009 Yanagi Miwa.

Yanagi Miwa (Official Site)

This photographer (yes, I am a little biased towards photography) has a much darker vision, but no less stunning. The image above is from my favorite of her series entitled “Fairy Tale” which juxtaposes a young girl with an old woman. Evoking classic Japanese horror and myth, the sense of unreality in her photographs is positively chilling – and exceptionally beautiful. Check out the series “My Grandmothers” as well for a blend of narrative and image.

Mizuno Junko, Imagination Pie. © Mizuno Junko and Nucleus Studios, Inc.

Mizuno Junko (Official Blog) (Images at Gallery Nucleus)

A favorite of mine since high school, illustrator/painter/commercial artist Mizuno first got noticed outside of Japan with her manga (comic books) adaptations of classic fairy tales. She still makes comics (her most recent being a take on Spider Man!) but also clothing, toys, and paintings for exhibition in fine art galleries. Charmingly creepy and often humorous, her work is so outrageously fantastic I can’t help but smile when I see it. Try the comic “Cinderalla,” which was her debut manga in English.

About the Author: Marketing & Publications intern Carolanne Bonanno is leaving NMWA to pursue a Museum Studies MA at Johns Hopkins University.

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