KAREN NAGANO ARTIST/POET BIO
Grew up on a farm a mile and a half from the Pacific Ocean on the Central California Coast. Third generation Japanese American girl-child wandering the fields while the family adults worked in them. Their fields of blood, sweat and tears were my magical playground. My imagination thrived.
Influences straight from the old country informed my early childhood. From my Grandmother Nagano, her much acclaimed Japanese calligraphy. Her storytelling and sophisticated visual aesthetic. From Grandmother Ono oshibori, traditional Japanese tie-dye. Her sense of color. Her fashion sense. Her senryu poetry. Those matrilineal connections drove me. I majored in Studio Art and minored in Japanese at Stanford University. Spent a year in Japan studying Japanese at the Keio University Language Center in Tokyo through the Stanford-Keio Exchange Program. I also studied art at the Kofukai Art Institute.
I didn’t have a conscious plan. Just knew in my bones that cultivating my Japanese cultural heritage was essential to me artistically and emotionally. I knew also that I had to learn my craft which was Western oil painting and printmaking. I studied and learned. UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, an etching apprenticeship. All the while cultivating a Zen Buddhist practice.
Through the unorthodox amalgam of interests, passions , fixations, my own style emerged. Flat and linear like the Japanese Yamato-e. A sense of space and visual humor and storytelling of the ukiyoe . Western art practice and materials. Poetry that flows parallel to visual expression.
This style which incorporates high and low, lends itself to exploration. The painful and challenging as well as the beautiful and sublime. Truthfulness is the bedrock of emotional freedom and true Beauty. My ultimate goals in Art as well as in Life are Freedom, Buoyancy, Love, Connection, Healing through the embrace of the whole human experience.
"Dreams Like Silver Fish"- The poem, read in voice-over, came first. The painting of the same title followed.