Naomi Nakazato Interview - The Hopper Prize

Naomi Nakazato

Naomi Nakazato discusses early memories of visiting art museums, how momentary places of ritual can simultaneously tether one’s self to place, as well as dissolve imposed orientations, & allowing onself to be more porous and open to disruptions.

How did you get into making art?

I was raised a few miles outside of Washington, DC, and some of the most distinct memories of my childhood are of going to art museums with my mom on weekends. We would sit for hours on the benches at The Hirschhorn or The National Gallery of Art and copy what we saw and what we wanted to see. I’m grateful to say that drawing, specifically this quiet dialogue of seeing and translating, has permeated every thread of my artistic approach, so much to say that I don’t know where its influence starts and stops. It was only some year at my liberal arts college that I began to understand the gravity of representing my world and give merit to this process of visual transference.

What are you currently working on?

I’m compiling materials for a projected installation that examines the mechanics of the shrine and considers how momentary places of ritual can simultaneously tether one’s self to place, as well as dissolve imposed orientations. It currently exists as a wall of fragmentary objects speaking to one another through various compositions and iterations. I’m in the process of researching and considering how this aggregation will be housed and how a collection can be presented without directly referencing institutional formats. Failure and non-fluency are major components to this rupture; there are a lot of pieces that refuse to be static and become hallowed in their reworking.

I’m compiling materials for a projected installation that examines the mechanics of the shrine and considers how momentary places of ritual can simultaneously tether one’s self to place, as well as dissolve imposed orientations.

Naomi Nakazato

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

It all stems from being hermetically connected to the rituals developed in my personal space during the pandemic lockdown, and now, moving towards an invitation to listen and ask questions in peripheral conversations. I’m currently vacillating between reconfiguring my studio practice and picking up speed with designing and materializing components. Considering the ways in which the pandemic has shifted everything, I can assuredly say I’m not the only one that has been reevaluating an unhealthy devotion to productivity. This requires a bit of very careful unlearning of finishing things prematurely for the sake of a response/reward. It’s also allowing myself to be more porous and open to disruptions, and as a result, engage in larger conversations outside of the studio. All of these thoughts are seeping into the work–idiosyncratic materials that are at times distant in their arrangement, other times tenderly overlapped; oozy forms that rebel; and translucent surfaces as a mercurial state. It’s been such an indulgent departure from the rigid matrices of whatever was before this.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

A bit of both, but I’m most aligned with the former. My work’s point of departure is always design-oriented and a practice in considering space. Most of the scaffolding for ideas is written in proposals for projects or shows, so there are delineations that I am able to reference but not necessarily feel beholden to later on. As I begin to dive into multiple processes for one piece, inevitably the chance to play and arrange pulls me away from any prescriptive desire to distill meaning. It gives way to other ideas and residual objects that are more transient in their nature. Building a library from these one-off talismans and snapshots allows me a place to visit and build off of in future works.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I’m usually found in the studio after my day job or on weekends; my time is precious, so it’s an ultra-focused session for a few hours. Each block feels like a monastic, sacred state, so I refrain from eating, drinking, responding to notifications (this one is especially difficult), or listening to music. Adopting this approach and keeping organized lends itself to continuity and I’m able to immediately pick up where I left off from the last time without mental or environmental clutter. Each session is a little different, but it usually consists of making individual components through specific mediums that will later be compiled and assembled into one piece. One of my favorite things to do in the studio is make hardware and then mold and cast it. It’s such a satisfying feeling to unearth cast objects, so I find myself doing it as often as I can afford to. If I decide to work from home, I’m often flippantly attempting to feed various substrates through my home office printer (this last time it was Salonpas pain relief patches). Other times it’s being noisy and making panels, or playing a staring game with a piece after I’ve altered it past the point of return. I try my best to not stay in studio past midnight regardless of living just a few blocks

Who are your favorite artists?

Referencing only visual artists for brevity–Vija Celmins, Paul Thek, René Magritte, Agnes Martin, AK Burns, Yasujiro Ozu, William Blake, Settai Komura, Andrei Tarkovsky, Hayao Miyazaki, Neo Rauch, Shirin Neshat, Fra Angelico, Kerry James Marshall, close friends and colleagues, this list is already discursive and could continue on. Also, I don’t have an obsessive personality, but Lynda Benglis might be a god in my book?

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I find artists through various programming at art institutions, residencies, bookstores, conversations (my own and others’), and of course, endless scrolling on Instagram.

Naomi Nakazato is an artist based in Brooklyn who was recently shortlisted for The Hopper Prize. To learn more about the artist:

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