deconstructed kimonos, 2012

Altered vintage kimono, ceramic and wooden altar

I have been called a “Japanese Ai Weiwei”, perhaps because like him, I appropriate cultural objects, and then transform them so they have 
new significance. 


In Japan, when a woman puts on a kimono it becomes part of her body. Though the kimono appears to be a flowing and simple gown, the layers that bind the woman’s breasts and the rest of her body makes for a very constricting uniform. Breathing is difficult and only small steps may be taken. The restrictive nature of wearing it is thought to instill tranquility and peacefulness.


As I cut away the red flowers and leaves from the ivory kimono, I felt somewhat uncomfortable. I am destroying a symbol of my Japanese culture. I wonder, who was the woman who wore it? What was her life like?


The cutting becomes a meditation. I feel a connection to the larger community of women who create and mend clothing. However, I was 
doing it in reverse…I was taking it apart. 


My alterations reflect the loosening connection to my ancestry and culture, and the dissection of stereotypes. I honor the cut out pieces in altars below the kimonos, holding them lovingly as lessons and parts that have died to make room for more. The kimono is reduced to a skeleton, a web, yet the garment still maintains its elegant and simple structure even after deconstruction. I contemplate making more breathing space in my life to support a simple, healthy, and creative life path.


The deconstructed garments represent not only the personal space but also the liminal space where the transformation of tradition, culture, and structure takes place.