Visitors to the new Uber campus in Mission Bay are now greeted by nine vibrantly-painted bronze sculptures by Berkeley artist Masako Miki, her first permanent public installation. The figures celebrate multicultural identity, fluidity and all forms of hybridity. Luxe chatted with the artist to get an inside look at the meaning behind her work.
How has Shinto animism helped you explore personal identity? There was the duality of my Japanese background and American culture. When I go back to Japan, I’m no longer the Japanese woman that they expect, while in the U.S., I have a difficult time holding my own positions, being a minority and female. The shape-shifter, or yōkai, from Shinto animism are characters in Japanese folklore. They embrace dualities and that spoke to me. I thought, this is all me and I don’t have to choose.
What are you reflecting on for your latest solo exhibition, “New Mythologies”? The Black Lives Matter movement and the recent hate crimes against the Asian community have been devastating to witness. I also lost my father last year, so everything resonated differently. I could barely make it after losing my dad from a natural illness. What kind of grieving processes have these families had to endure when they’ve lost a family member by violence? The exhibition is reflecting on life and death, and the urge to create a better mythology, for us to be happier as a collective.
How does your artistic style dovetail with the ideas you hope to convey? Playfulness— making things whimsical and uplifting. These are important qualities in my work because that translates as invitation. Playfulness is essentially about exploration.