miya ando studio visit_spoon-tamago (24)

all photos by Karen Kristian. © Spoon & Tamago | click to enlarge

Last week we visited the studio of artist Miya Ando. Based in Brooklyn, Ando had just returned from Puerto Rico where she had created an ethereal installation of bioluminescent leaves.

Raised in Okayama and Santa Cruz, Ando is a descendant of samurai-era Bizen sword makers-turned-buddhist priests. She carries on her family’s heritage by primarily working with steel and incorporating a zen-like minimal aesthetic.

Greeting us as we entered was a large deer head and antlers that hung on a wall between 2 windows. The piece appeared to have been cast from resin but we later learned that Ando had covered the wooden head in graphite, a material she had been experimenting with recently. And as if being flanked by the deity-like sculpture was an assortment of tools and a cluster of inspirational objects that spanned quotes, diagrams, a 100-ft scroll, a drill press and a family altar.

The adjacent walls were lined with Ando’s signature hand-dyed aluminum panels. The reflective qualities of the metal, combined with its monumental weight, is one of the things that has Ando forever intrigued. And indeed, walking alongside, one can’t help but feel mesmerized by the ever-changing shades and gradations. At times, you feel the urge to take one, even two steps backwards because you’re suddenly struck with the fear that you’ve missed something beautiful.

Because it didn’t exist previously, Ando coined a word to describe her process. Taking her cue from the ancient Japanese indigo-dying process aizome (藍染め), she calls her aluminum dying process aruzome (アル染め). Ando’s aruzome pieces are currently part of a group show at Sundaram Tagore gallery in Chelsea (through July 21, 2012). If you’re on the west coast, the pieces will be shown in a solo show “Meditations” at Madison Gallery (from July 16 – August 4, 2012)

Above, Ando’s armor-like furisode (long-sleeve) kimono hangs in her studio. The piece was hand-soldered using over 4000 sterling silver rings and stainless steel plates. Ando says she was inspired by a kimono that her grandmother made for her, which led to the creation of this unusual life-size replica.

On the left is Ando’s wall of tools. On the right, she tells us, is her “wall of narcissism.”

Ando shows us a piece of steel from the World Trade Center twin towers, which she sanded down until it displayed a clear reflection. Last year Ando was commissioned to create a sculpture – fashioned out of contorted remnants of the fallen towers – to commemorate the attack on the World Trade Center towers.

Above is one of Ando’s latest pieces in which she hand-carved a Buddhist scripture into a slab of metal.

While vastly contrastive compared to Ando’s massive iron and steel sculptures, the artist has also created an ethereal silk scarf: Tetsu to kinu scarf (鉄と絹スカーフ), literally “iron and silk” scarf. It’s currently available in the Spoon & Tamago shop.

Although Ando tells us her use of blues comes from her deep love and reverence for the sea, she is also endlessly inspired by wood, namely redwood, and the ways it can work with or against metal.

As usual, my son Huey (5) had some questions for Ando.