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Tribute to Mishima Kimiyo (1932-2024)

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of pioneering artist Mishima Kimiyo

Tribute to Mishima Kimiyo (1932-2024)

A true giant in the field of Japanese sculpture passed away on June 19, 2024. Despite her diminutive stature, MISHIMA KIMIYO (1932-2024) was a woman of great power, monumental talent, and insight. And she had a big heart.

Mishima was one of the most prominent and widely exhibited of the first generation of Japanese women artists who used clay as a medium. Her realistic depictions of discarded newspapers, print materials, cardboard containers, and other refuse were metaphors for the “throwaway” nature of contemporary mass media, a critique of society’s wastefulness, and very much part of pop-art culture. She wished to convey that the recycled clay she utilized for her sculptural bodies was as “breakable” and “disposable” as the daily news. Ever sensitive to the environment and the overwhelming flow of information in today’s world, Mishima hoped her engaging work would compel viewers to take notice and even take action.

Despite her success in this medium, she never considered herself a ceramist. An indomitable figure and inveterate traveler, despite modest resources, Mishima journeyed by plane, train, and/or bus to nearly every venue for the seminal traveling exhibition, Soaring Voices – Contemporary Japanese Women Ceramic Artists, in which the twelve museums included nine venues spanning the US. And inevitably, she was the sole artist to do so, most often bravely unaccompanied. With a noteworthy appetite for both conversation and good food, she made friends and supporters wherever she ventured.

Born in Osaka, Mishima was first a painting student in Tokyo, but after her marriage to Mishima Shigeji, she returned to Osaka where the Gutai Movement flourished. There her painted works on canvas included the art of collage, using pages from magazines and newspapers acquired during her travels. In the 1970s, she developed an interest in silk-screening such “informational” materials to create sculptures formed from clay. As a result of receiving a Rockefeller Grant in 1986-87, the art scene in New York became an influential part of her development. As her work continued to evolve, her witty, metaphorical sculptures were exhibited internationally. Today Mishima's sculptures are found in museum collections across the globe. In 2021 she was awarded the gold prize for lifetime achievement by the Japan Ceramic Society. Her career was recently the focus of a retrospective exhibition at the Nerima Art Museum and is currently featured in the American touring exhibition, Radical Clay–– Contemporary Women Artists from Japan

Our thoughts are with her family, friends, and ardent fans. Her forceful character, talent, and artistic voice will be greatly missed and our memories of her will be forever cherished.

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