Corinne Okada


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Corinne Okada
About the author

As a child, I was frequently tucked into the car and wrapped in a patchwork quilt of kimonos, rice bags and faded Hawaiian aloha prints. On long cross country drives to a new home on one side of the country or the other, I carefully studied the fabrics rolling in small hills across my knees. They whispered of rustling sugar cane fields, great aunts cooling off in rice bag slips, and kimono doll dresses made of apple wrappers. The fabrics were warm reminders of family life and blended cultures on islands far away. Quilts and family stories are the inspiration for my mixed media art today. I blend precious fabrics, rice bags and simple discards such as food wrappers to bring to light the cascade of cultures people experienced through the sharing of food, clothing, and tales. The sculptures explore the disassembling and reassembling of modern day artifacts. My works range greatly in size from large eight foot tall kimonos and butterflies for the main lobbies of Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Santa Clara and Boston Children's Hospital to small floral broaches and hats for fashion events. These pieces have shown in galleries across the country and are in private collections in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and Paris. My art aims to inspire reflection upon the reuse and recycling traditions of generations past, and to encourage viewers to celebrate the beauty in the creative reuse of materials. The whimsical incorporation of recycled objects into my pieces surprises and invites viewers to observe discards in a new light and inspires the reuse of resources in their daily lives. The intimate histories, legends and cultural metaphors in my work also inform viewers of histories often overlooked or under examined. I have developed a unique process for creating my large collage textile art. Each piece begins with paper and digital sketches. I twist long strands of magnet wire to mimic twisted thread fibers. The wire is tied down to cardboard to form a frame. The completed wire framework is removed from the cardboard and waste canvas is hand stitched over the wire to create a base support for other hand stitched fabric layers. Wrappers and other repurposed artifacts are attached either by stitching or using archival glues. An early work, Jan Ken Pon Kimono, is the first piece in the Peabody Essex Museum’s Asian American Artist Collection. In 2009 and 2010, I embarked on a project that engaged the online public ( )to reflect on the visual identity of Silicon Valley through textile design. The resulting installation, TECHstlye SoftWEAR:Surface & Shape is documented on my research site: . This project followed up my December 2008/January 2009 artist residency, Rhythms in Space, at the de Young Museum in which I explored textile and pattern design in sculptural hangings. I am currently exploring fabric and pattern design with youth in two projects: and My art is rooted in the knowledge that textiles and patterns can anchor us to cultural memories and help shape new identities.