A somewhat fanciful, but true, biography of me – Akiko Kotani
At the break of dawn with the ascent of Scorpio, I was born in Waipahu, Hawaii. According to the Chinese calendar, being born in the year of 1940 makes me a Dragon. As the only mythical creature in their cycle of birth, I imagine my spirit comes from a sense of irreality. My BFA in painting was spawned in the tropics, under the influence of no air conditioning, at the University of Hawaii. A growing interest in weaving took me to Guatemala to study its intricate patterns, two of which were “mosquitos” and “foot print of the dog.” Landing back in the US of A produced a cultural shock from my dreamy laid back ways of frijoles and tortillas to watching the minute hand of my watch. I paid close attention to my time as I gained my MFA in Fiber Art in 1977 from the Tyler School of Art, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. After 21 years in the to and fro of being a Professor of Art at Slippery Rock University, I now reside in the continuous beauty of clouds and sunsets of Gulfport, Florida. I am the proud receiver of two awards: the 2018 St. Petersburg Individual Artist Award and recently the 2019 Artist Laureate Award from Creative Pinellas, Largo, Florida.
Soft Walls – A Narrative Description with 6 site-specific pictures of their placement.
The space-engulfing sculpture called Soft Walls is comprised of over 800 square feet of crocheted plastic enveloping wooden walls. The plastic encasement flows off the wall and puddles at the floor. Its combination of external flexibility and internal solidity might be thought of as the image of a tender and soft mother who is, in truth, the strength of the family. In fact, one of the underlying motives was to honor my mother’s love of handwork and that of other women by employing this technique. I delight in transforming everyday materials with cunning use of scale, a minimalist palette, and my handmade technique. I am attracted to the refinement of simple techniques that direct my work toward an “economy of means” which generates a concentrated power within the work.
I envision Soft Walls existing in a rarefied sort of space: “white space” as I imagine it in my reverie. The space is pure. Innocence is complete and time ceases. But the atmosphere is full of brilliant light. The objects are proportioned in a way that activates the space around them. Space here is thought almost as a solid entity. Using the most elemental of “women’s work” techniques to bring life to the forms that I conjure up in my dream space is how I delight in creating my work.
Awarded Pittsburgh 2013 Artist of the Year, Soft Walls was first shown at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, PA. In 2014 it was exhibited in Austin, TX at Women and Their Work as a Visual Artists Network (VAN) Exhibition Residency artist. Out of 15 of these national residency awards, 2 were chosen for the 2014 VAN’s Annual Conference Exhibition at Living Arts, Tulsa, OK. It then traveled to the Martha Gault Gallery, Slippery Rock University, PA where I am currently Professor Emerita of Art. In Florida, it was first shown at Gallery 221 @ HCC, Dale Mabry Campus, Tampa, then went on the next year, 2017 to be shown as part of SKYWAY: A Contemporary Collaboration at the Museum of Fine Art, St. Petersburg.