A recent recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, Maya Onoda continues to explore her life and art through her “topographical diaries”. Far from the Japanese culture which shaped her, Onoda sees herself as a nomad and has created through her art a portable home to carry with her.
Topographical diaries are visual records, or maps, of the artist’s thoughts and emotions. This installation creates an intimate place using recycled materials as varied as papers, old bed sheets, and nylon stockings. Childhood memories of Onoda’s relationship with her mother and observing her perform all of the house work permeate her artwork. She no longer sees her art as precious; instead the process of creating her art becomes part of her “house work”, transforming the recycled materials into art.
It feels right to recycle because it reminds me of my mother making clothes out of used clothes. I layer and collage my materials mostly by sewing. Sewing is an important part of my creation because it allows me to build a piece without violating it. Sewing strengthens my work. As a result, my work looks delicate but is not fragile.
The installation recreates a small domestic scene, reminiscent of a fantasy room inside a closet. The sewn pieces are translucent and light, visible on both sides. Hung with clothes pins from lines, the pieces give the viewer a sense of “walking through the laundry when experiencing the space”. Aside from the architectural effect, each piece functions as a drawing. Onoda explains,
as drawings are built up, images acquire narrative elements in abstract ways. Through an intense process of adding and subtracting layers, many of the images become fragmented. However, I always include something recognizable such as silhouettes of camels and birds as hints leading into the pieces.
Incorporating both visible and hidden elements is essential to Onoda’s work, similar to Japanese kimonos. The outside of a traditional kimono is often a modest, solid color but the inside reveals a glimpse of a more elaborate, vivid design pattern as the wearer walks by.