Mariko Kusumoto is an enchantress. More specifically, she creates magical worlds that both delight and mystify. Using a variety of metalsmithing techniques, Kusumoto crafts elaborate miniature stage sets, with multiple doors, moving parts, compartments and drawers, as well as the characters and props to inhabit them. For instance, Byobu, 2004–2006, is a compartmentalized interactive theatre made of magnetic components in hundreds of different shapes, which include characters with changeable costumes, flora, fauna, toys, and iconic Japanese images.
Each object can be presented as closed boxes and containers or opened and manipulated so that their stories “unfold.” The narrative potential is even more complex as many elements are created in the form of brooches, necklaces and bracelets that can be worn, and thus seen in a wholly different light.
These metal sculptural boxes reflect Kusumoto’s Japanese identity and influences from her childhood. As the artist suggests, “Growing up in a 400-year old Buddhist temple, I was always surrounded by the beauty of nature and ancient things…I was also fascinated by the elaborate metal and wood ornaments…throughout the temple.”
The visual sensations she experienced in this sacred space manifest in her treatment of light. Kusumoto’s application of finishes, use of color, and blend of textures produce a surface that emits a glow reminiscent of her childhood surroundings. Says Kusumoto, “Metal has been a familiar material to me since I was a child; polishing the elaborate metal ornaments in the altars in my temple was one of my chores.”
Mariko Kusumoto: Unfolding Stories is organized by Mobilia Gallery, Cambridge, MA.