b. 1973, Osaka, Japan; Lives and works in Berkeley, CA
Masako Miki (b. 1973 Osaka, Japan) is a multimedia artist whose work ranges installation and large-scale sculpture, printmaking, watercolor and felting. A native of Japan, she now lives and works in Berkeley, CA. Her work frequently explores the idea of synthesis—manipulating contradicting spatial elements to suggest a disoriented context and space. She bases her narrative on her own experiences of becoming bicultural in the United States at the age of eighteen. The artist frequently delves into the psychological aspects of how one processes new environments and cultures; ultimately her work merges two existing cultures into a new one.
Strongly influenced by craft and folk art of different cultures, Miki remains close to her ancestral traditions, especially those that arise from her association with Buddhist and Shinto beliefs and practices, as well as traditional Japanese folklore. Her current work is inspired by the idea of animism from the Shinto belief of yaoyorozu no kami (eight million gods). These millions of deities define world of shifting boundaries and identities, in which absolute realities are hard to come by. In her translation of these concepts, Miki creates large, felt-colored forms based on shape-shifting spirits. Shapeshifters are a recurring symbol within ancestral Japanese mythologies and folklore, often manifesting and mingling the synthesis of opposing dualities. A concept that is close to her own personal background, Miki’s resulting sculptures are semi-abstract, brilliantly colored, and frequently set against pop-esque backgrounds that suggest an alternate reality.
The artist’s practice is further rooted in the belief that art can foster social contexts in which contemporary and universally relevant mythologies and social narratives can be generated—replacing or fixing harmful misconceptions and mythologies of the past that have previously sparked social injustices. Indeed, the composite realities and narratives that Miki hopes to help spawn with her own art are designed to replace old conceptions of art and society that create chasms instead of filling social gaps.
In 2021, her large-scale sculptures were commissioned as a permanent installation at the Uber Technologies Headquarters in Mission Bay, San Francisco. In 2020, Miki’s functional furniture was commissioned to be a part of San Francisco’s forthcoming Minna-Natoma Art Corridor. She was recently a residency artist at Kala Artist Institute and Wassaic Project in New York.
In 2023, the KMAC Contemporary Art Museum presented, Masako Miki: Shapeshifting, a solo exhibition of Miki’s felt sculptures, and in 2022, the Katonah Museum of Art included her work in Constant Carnival: The Haas Brothers in Context. She has also been exhibited at the Nassima Landau Art Foundation, Israel (2023); ICA San Jose, CA (2022); Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, CA (2022); Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA (2019); and de Young Museum, CA (2016), among others. Miki's work is held in the collections of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, CA; Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation, NY; Collección SOLO, Spain; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA.