Spring 2014 Fellow
Is it possible to represent the nature of mind in a sculpture? Maybe one could depict the mind as an abstraction in which colors and shapes suggest mental qualities or neurological activity or, more prosaically, represent it as a brain. An anatomical reference is certainly not going to convey the subjectivity, the inner sense of mind, something familiar to everyone. So, is it possible to represent the mind as a concrete, identifiable, non-cliché thing? When you think about the mind, about what it’s like to be inside the mind, you confront the odd realization that not only are we always inside a mind — a singular personal mind; that mind contains everything we are, a representation of the body, as well as everything outside the body, everything that we think we know. The mind “embodies” these things even when it is not actively thinking about them. Is mind a mirror or simply an extension of the stuff of life and experience?
These kinds of speculations suggest the parameters of the task Kyoko Hirako set for herself when she undertook to make an image of “mind” during her Spring, 2014 residency at the Creative Glass center of America. Perhaps not so surprisingly some of her exploratory studies of faces and shadowy figures bear a clear resemblance to the Buddha, though she denies an intentional Buddhist concept. Nevertheless, her project goal might put one in mind of Buddha who is believed to have said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.” But Buddha is not the only metaphysical image suggested by Hirako’s studies. To at least one observer some of her studies seen in profile resemble the famous ancestor or guardian heads on Easter Island.
Aiming to make a large sculpture, Hiroko settled on a simple symmetrical frontal silhouette of the human figure executed in black glass. It’s based conceptually on a shadow, specifically Hiroko’s own shadow, as that shadow would be cast directly ahead of her or behind her. It looks something like the outline of an Egyptian mummy case, but, as with the other comparisons, Hiroko does not intend a link with Egyptian mummies. However, one could postulate a parallel relationship: the mummy case was meant to contain the essence of the person, something reasonably parallel to the notion of a sculpture of mind.
After completing many studies, the most significant attempt that Hirako made in kiln casting this image at CGCA was nearly life size, almost a kind of self-portrait. The shadow form is intuitive and vaguely self-referential. It is simple and uninflected, a little like an oversize gingerbread figure (Yet another, albeit more playful, human archetype). The shape must be acknowledged and recognizable as a kind of essence.
In seeking a suitable glass for this work, Hiroko completed a number of studies of a single hand cast in different colors and opacities before settling on a particular “very deep color” of emphatically black glass for the large figure. When cast, the chosen glass resembles basalt. It is opaque and not excessively shiny or reflective.
She plans to elaborate the figure by including two hands, symmetrically covering the eyes. They will obscure the facial features and will for some observers seem to convey an emotion. For Hiroko the gesture illustrates the individual (herself) rejecting the external to focus on inner truths. “My eyes are closed because …. I want to look deeply into my mind.”
To further depict the intentionality of the gesture by providing a context, Hiroko constructed a large collection of three dimensional hot-formed glass shapes intended to represent the distractions of the everyday world. Abstract, they might suggest solid hieroglyphs, pictograms, or emblems. The clear forms contain numerous dirty-looking mottled fragments, tiny bits of aluminum foil that Hiroko introduced into the glass. They represent distractions, mental pollution in the daily environment that detracts from inner clarity: sounds, sights, and ideas. These forms will form an installation context for the large figure. The covering of the eyes is a metaphoric rejection of the quasi-linguistic fragments. “I do want to talk now,” the gesture says, not just rejecting other people but all external goings-on. The projected sculpture with its covered eyes is archetypal and elemental. It represents a person who is engaged in an intense inner dialogue.
“I think maybe every time I close my eyes [I shut out] very ‘noisy’ information. When I cover my eyes I [am aware of] my inside soul, my feeling of calm.”
Written by Robin Rice