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Artist Conversation: Kiyomi Fukui

Exhibition Information:

Artist: Kiyomi Fukui

Exhibition: Conversation on Conflict

Media: Origami paper cranes of conversations Mrs. Fukui had with her father

Gallery: left unmentioned…


Kiyomi Fukui is a Japanese American artist with an MFA in printmaking from California State University Long Beach (CSULB) and a BFA in graphic design from La Sierra University. She’s a firm follower of art therapy, and the concept of “impermanence and fragility” are a common aspect of her projects. Thus, the motivation behind her work is often to capture and recognize the moments in life that pass on all too quickly but remain with us all the same. Such moments that reveal a fragility in people that is not easily portrayed.

Conversation in Conflict is an interactive artwork which was inspired by the Japanese tradition of folding a thousand paper cranes, through which its completion is meant to grant a wish or create a miracle. People would simply come in, sit down in a circle, and use the sheets provided on the table to continuously fold cranes as well as take the opportunity to chat with others in the circle. These sheets were printed by Kiyomi Fukui herself, which record her conversation about what it was like to grow up as a Japanese-Korean citizen with her father.

This was a subject that, in her youth, caused Mrs. Fukui to become “othered” with him. The verb “(to) other” is similar to de-familiarizing, but much closer to what happens when a person becomes too strange to a group for them to consider that person as one of them, and continue interacting that way. Examples include: segregation, bullying, and getting kicked out of the house. Her conversation with her father brought her closer to understanding him, and she dedicated her multitudes of folded cranes to that. The miracle of understanding something you thought you never would.

While it’s true I never experienced the more formal types of “othering,” as a child I never had friends, for all that I was as happy or romantic or intelligent as a normal person ought to be, but I was never too bothered with it. I learned quickly that the trouble wasn’t worth it because I was happy enough to sit down and read on the benches, and that made all the difference in how I treated my isolation.

But I was always a bit shaken whenever my parents asked if I had friends to invite to my birthdays. I felt bad for them. I hated when they worried about something that I used to think was pointless.

So I lied to them.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(Thinking of my current age, I spent a little less than half my lifetime lying about this to my parents)

The point is, this project really reminded me of my own miracle. Friendship had always been an “otherness” that I thought was like, a hobby. You have your life, and maybe with a sprinkle of pepper and friendship on the side, and some people don’t even like pepper so it’s probably not even a necessity, right? I also eat my food without sauce or extra salt, it’s a good analogy, my 5 year old brain once said. Had fake friends, the give and take kind, until the second semester of my freshman year highschool I finally met the friends that I’m still best friends with now.

It sounds really cheesy, learning the true meaning of friendship, but it was a miracle for me. And a thousand cranes probably take a couple years to fold, if you take your time…

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