The most surprising thing about her stint in Japan, says glass artist Pamina Traylor, who spent a semester as a visiting professor at the Osaka University of Art last fall, “was being illiterate. My grandparents are Japanese, I'd been taking classes and listening to tapes, but I didn't speak Japanese when I got there. The worst was not being able to read. A lot of my art in the past has been about language and I got away from that.”
The work in “Reflections,” her new exhibit at the Sculpturesite — San Francisco’s only gallery dedicated to contemporary and modern sculpture — focuses on the Japanese connection to nature and the close attention to seasons.
She was fascinated to learn that restaurants in Japan will change out all of their dishware and silverware and artwork with each change of season, “and how they cut the food, how they decorate the place — it's all seasonal.”
Despite her Japanese heritage, Traylor, whose work is in private and public collections worldwide, says, “When I was in Osaka, I realized how much of what I knew was really about Japanese-American culture rather than Japanese.”
During her semester in Osaka, the Japanese government reacted to the worldwide grain shortage by subsidizing rice production.
“Individuals were growing rice, hand-working, with rice shoots tucked into every little corner,” Traylor recalls, explaining what inspired her new work. “It wasn't growing in huge rectangular shapes like the rice fields in Louisiana or the cornfields in the Midwest, it was the small scale that I was interested in.”
This interest meshed with Traylor's commitment to the slow food movement, which she defines as “people becoming more involved in local community farming,” with communities relying more on local food than extensive shipping.
Traylor believes that raising most of her own vegetables in her backyard garden here prepared her to be more in tune with the small operations in the countryside.
With the exception of a few pieces inspired by Shinto shrines, the rest of the work was inspired by those individual rice fields. In
“After the Rain,” a rusted steel frame holds 1,300 pieces of individual glass that have been sandblasted and hand painted, created from a mold of individual rice stalks.
Another vertical piece that hangs on a wall has 5,000 glass fingers that hang and move.
“I wanted the sense of things being alive,” Traylor explains.
If you go
Pamina Traylor: Reflections
Where: Sculpturesite Gallery Convention Plaza, 201 Third St., Suite 102, San Francisco
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; opening reception 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday; closes Oct. 18
Contact: (415) 495-6400 or www.sculpturesite.com