In the Studio with Maiko Kikuchi

In the studio with Maiko Kikuchi, a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice is Influenced by her psychoanalyst father. We met with Maiko to tell us more about growing up in Japan, their greatest influences, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

In 2015 I sold my first drawing to someone who I didn’t know. I was moved by the fact that the person appreciated the work just by itself. That was a defining moment for me. 

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?

I was born and raised in Japan. My father is a psychoanalyst and he often brought me to his office when I was a child. he had a big wooden box filled with sand and tons of miniature figures displayed on a shelf in his office room at that time. That was there for a type of children’s therapy called “Sandplay therapy” a method by which the doctor was able to analyze a child’s unconscious thoughts by the miniature world they created with the toys on the sand landscape inside of the box. Every time I went to his office, I was so into making my little world inside of the box. They are all the elements of this real world but depending on how you place them, the world becomes unusual and that made me imagine all the different stories behind them. That experience influenced me in my creating process.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work? 

Making a visible daydream is the coherent purpose for my creation. I define daydream as another world that a human can bring their imagination to their reality so it can exist on the boundary between the “Usual” and “Unusual”. Most people must have been living in their own daydreams when they were kids. I remember myself was there and always imagining like “what if when I turn the corner then there is a giant elephant standing in front of the super market today?” and also I believed I was able to be a pink bunny when I grew up. Those daydreams made me terrified, excited, fascinated, and feeling free. Somewhere down the line, I started living in the world based on common sense. In that world, there is no big elephant in front of the supermarket and of course, I can’t be a pink bunny. 

The first time my “Of course” got cracked was the time I moved in US. my language was not a communication tool anymore and the size of the food was five times bigger than the food on my plate in Japan. Surrounded by the big buildings and people who’s speak I could not understand made me feel as if I was a tiny child, fixed upon the boundary between my usual and unusual and I recall that feeling I used to feel. That made me realized that I can still experienced that feeling again even though I grew up. Then I started to wonder if I can give this experience to others through my creation.

Who & what are your greatest influences?  

My father. 

An unexpected source of inspiration?

Music. I’m not a musician, but since I started to make animated music videos for musicians, I always got inspiration from their music that I couldn’t come up with before hearing it.

What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?

My purpose of creating daydreams is making an audience experience the feeling as if they were watching it through a window.

What events in your life have mobilized change in your practice?

Moving to US was a one of the biggest mobilizers. Another was knowing puppetry and starting my career, not just as a visual artist, but also as a theatre artist. Theater performance allows me to broaden my expression of daydreams.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

I believe good work is always created when I see it’s clear vision in my mind before I make it. 

Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?

Inspiration for a work called She Sells Seashells In Her Dream:

This work is inspired by a famous English tongue twister:

She sells seashells by the seashore, The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure. So if she sells seashells on the seashore, Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

I like tongue twisters because it’s nonsense and that nonsense gives me room to imagine. “Where is the seashore? Who is she?” I made this work as if I collaged the pieces of a dream on this imaginary seashore.

Something in the future you hope to explore?

Using paint and collage I create still moments of the daydreams; on stage as performance, I use visual, sound, and object manipulation to “animate” them. As I express my ideas using these methods, I often feel there is some sort of wall separating the theatre performance and visual artwork. I always wonder if there is any way that I can break through that wall. 

So, I started dreaming about how to create a thread between these two different presentations in order to make them one continuous project. Performing in a gallery, and live, on-stage painting have been done before and are a staple of the visual art community. I’d like to go beyond that separation to bring together these two forms of artistic expression into one.