Object of the Week: Package-73 by Mishima Kimiyo

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Mishima Kimiyo (b. 1932) is a prolific contemporary, sculptural ceramist currently living and working in Osaka, Japan. She is known for her ecocritical analysis of media and material consumption. Mishima began her artistic career as a painter, but quickly switched to working with clay. In interviews, Mishima states that she felt motivated to create ceramics because clay was more suitable to interrupting discourses on materialism and directly engaging with the viewer. In the 1950s, Mishima dabbled in abstraction before settling into mixed media artworks in the 1960s. Her interest in ceramics increased in the 1970s, although she always maintained a love for printmaking, painting, and collage. In the 1970s and 1980s, Mishima became concerned with mass media’s usage of newspapers, billboards, advertisements, and magazines to bombard the senses. Increased global communication led to an overabundance of news stories, which in turn created a desensitized and indifferent populace with consumers selectively reading articles that only pertained to their interests. Mishima also raises concerns on how the modern age effects the environment. Her sculptures allude to the connection between mass consumption and the decimation of the planet’s health. Rise in the oversaturation of media coincides with a rise in the use of non-renewable resources and non-recyclable materials. Mishima pushes her audience to confront the dangers and reality of mass production. Made to resemble a rumpled cardboard box and crumpled newspaper, Package-73 epitomizes the disastrous effects of media and the disregard for material waste. To create the illusion of printed media, Mishima silkscreened newspaper stories, logos, and illustrations with slips and glazes onto clay slabs. She then whorled, folded, and molded the slabs into three-dimensional objects meant to appear as real paper products. The durability and stability of the clay transforms the ephemeral paper product into something permanent, reminding viewers of the waste-filled landfills around the world. Simultaneously, the fired clay transforms the paper products into breakable and fragile items, which prompts viewers to revere the cardboard rather than cast it aside as useless trash. The ecological mission in Mishima’s work is not entirely apocalyptic. Her work has a sense of humor; viewers chuckle at her ability to fool the eye and become mesmerized by its illusionistic effects. At the same time, Mishima advocates for people to recognize the faults in modern mass media and suggests that present generations can work to reverse the negative effects of humanity on the environment. Package-73 is currently on display in The Floating Bridge: Postmodern and Contemporary Japanese Ceramics, an exhibition highlighting the under-recognized generation of artists who are now credited with laying the groundwork for today’s contemporary ceramic movement in Japan.

—Tyler Valera, Curatorial Intern

Photo credit: Jamie Young. Sources:1. “Beyond the Expected.” Gainesville Sun, Oct 01, 2015.2. Earle, Joe. Contemporary Clay: Japanese Ceramics for the New Century. Boston: MFA Publications, 2005.3. “Kimiyo Mishima.” MEM. Accessed October 30, 2020. http://mem-inc.jp/artists_e/mishima_e/4. Kimiyo Mishima. “Artist CV.” MEM. https://mem-inc.jp/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/200502Mishima_en.pdf5. “Kimiyo Mishima.” OCULA. Accessed October 30, 2020. https://ocula.com/artists/kimiyo-mishima/6. Koplos, Janet. “Mishima Kimiyo at MEM and Art Factory Jonanjima, Tokyo.” Ceramics, Art and Perception no. 108 (04, 2018): 38-41.7. “Mishima Kimiyo.” Dai Ichi Arts, LTD. 2020. Accessed October 30, 2020. https://www.daiichiarts.com/mishima-kimiyo8. “Mishima Kimiyo.” Joan B. Mirviss, LTD. Accessed October 30, 2020. https://www.mirviss.com/artists/mishima-kimiyo

Mishima Kimiyo, Package-73, 1974, porcelain, dimensions variable, Everson Museum of Art; Gift of the artist, 91.53.1.