Chikako Ogawa Essay

Chikako Ogawa Essay

Chikako Ogawa
Spring 2010 Fellow

Born in Nagoya, Japan under the astrological sign of Libra, Chikako Ogawa sees herself as a bridge joining from functional glass with the fine arts. And that’s not the only way the Spring 2010 Resident Fellow at the Creative Glass Center of America finds herself crossing from one category into another.

Ogawa likes to say that her work is somewhere between 2-D and 3-D: what she humorously calls ―two and a half–D. That two-and-a-half includes drawings engraved into the flat surfaces of faceted glass plaques and the facial features applied to minimalist figurative sculpture. Even more meaningfully, the phrase alludes to Ogawa’s pervasive, powerful sensitivity to textures and textural patterns. These may appear as colors or as shallow relief or markings in blown or cast glass. Superimposed one upon another in curved or flat planes, they build a deeper more flexible and real sense of space. Traditional Japanese and other fabrics and photographs are among the sources Ogawa draws upon. For the whimsically surreal ―Dear Teddy series of jointed doll-like, figures, she used Venetian cane pick-ups to place color on individually blown elements. Some of these criss-cross patterns recall the historic woven plaids of Japan (unrelated to Scottish tartans).

With an old-fashioned teddy’s long torsos and legs the glass toy forms in spite of their bubble-like transparency convincingly project the sense of stuffing settling downward with the force of gravity. Big feet, tiny stubby fingers and two small nubs on the head — that in some cases look more like antennae than ears — combine in a mysterious and endearing fashion. Looking through the walls of the blown elements to patterns on the other side summons a dreamy nostalgia and perhaps melancholy.

Ogawa’s use of fiber, real thread, and hand stitching to joins the elements of the ―Dear Teddy figures in typical Japanese Teddy style reinforces the fact that glass here mimics fiber construction. Their simplicity seems to embody almost pre-verbal memories, but these objects are not resilient cloth toys that passively absorb childish abuse. They are as fragile and ephemeral as childhood itself.

At CGCA Ogawa concentrated on making an even simpler kind of toy. Her blown glass ―girl figures are reminiscent of Japanese wooden kokeshi traditionally made in the Tohiku region of Japan. Originally Kokeshi kimono patterns represented regional styles but since the second world war, the doll’s shape has become more rounded (but not in the Western ―hourglass sense) and its features more individualized, more colorful and narrative. Today’s Kokeshi are generally composed of two forms: a round head on a cylindrical body. The kimono of the kokeshi often reflects a season or holiday, the age and, perhaps, the mood of the girl. Ogawa says that her figures are not intended to relate to special occasions but to represent ―girls in daily life. They are contemporary, unrealistic but nevertheless generic ―girls. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, Ogawa’s nickname ―Chika means ―girl (chica) in Spanish.

Ogawa’s ―’Girls aren’t always happy, she says. One reveals just half her face to express ―I’m so shy. At CGCA, Ogawa often treated the hair of these figures as the most expressive, narrative element. It tells its own story. One doll has hair in the shape of a fish, a ―Fishgirl.

The flocks of Canadian Geese that roam the grounds at WheatonArts, led Ogawa to make a girl with hair in this bird shape. She relates it to the popular crane motif (symbolic of honor and loyalty) and to the Japanese folktale of ―the Crane Wife. When a farmer (sometimes described as Osamu, a sailmaker) helped an injured crane, it transformed into a woman, Yukio. She came to his house and they married but they were poor. To earn money, Yukio made clothing (or a sail) by weaving (fabric again!) but she tells the farmer that he must not look at her while she is working because, of course, she had to become a crane again to weave. When the farmer inevitably peeks and sees that she really is a crane, she flies away. The story is a sad one.*

As in the ―Teddy sculptures, Ogawa is sensitive to the fragmentation of the persona. The teddies are jointed with sewn elements. Perhaps the bridge between one element and another is not as solid as it might appear. Ogawa plans to join some of the doll figures, head to body, with magnets, once again emphasizing the provisional, time-sensitive, potentially fragmented nature of the self, a fragmentation bridged by art.

(*see a version of the “Crane Wife”