Songs of Innocence and Experience: From Mockingbird to Watchman
Scout comes home in Go Set a Watchman. The young girl who witnessed a drama in the courtroom of Maycolm, Alabama, that shaped our twentieth-century American narrative, who saw her beloved father Atticus Finch courageously stand to...
Dear Refraction readers: This was a chapel talk I gave at William Jewell college in April. A chapel talk at William Jewell is to be under 500 words in order to have enough time for discussion afterwards. I liked this imposed limitation, as it made me compress my many thoughts about our...Read More →
Dear Refraction Readers:
I just returned from Cambridge, UK, where my Qu4rtets works, alongside Bruce Herman's works, were featured in the historic King's Chapel, Cambridge, to open their Holy Week celebrations. It was the first time in their history that modern paintings were installed in the...
Note to Refraction readers: This was a letter written to Dallas high school group that toured a private collection of my paintings. The teacher guiding them asked me to help the students "see" my works.
I've often been asked, "Can you explain your work to me"?
I usually respond by...Read More →
This speech is a prayer: a prayer uttered in the liminal zone between art and religion, a prayer to repair the schism between the two, a prayer to be-in T.S. Eliot's words - "reconciled among the stars."
I pray that some day, in the near future, our children and our grandchildren will see an age...
This essay should have been written several years ago. We should have seen it coming. But when a paradigm shifts, it's the people closest to the system who find it hardest to recognize the paradigm shift happening right under their noses.
Read More →
Chelsea art galleries are going to be extinct soon, at...
Thanks to Acton Institute's generosity, I got to participate, for the first time, in the ArtPrize. When I was invited to participate, I was ambivalent about whether to participate. My work does not do well in a setting in which a viewer only gets a glance at the work. I...Read More →
"There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart." Jane Austen
It happened early on a foggy morning in June.
My wife Judy noticed a fox scurrying away, leaving feathers behind, and by the time she checked, all of our nine chickens had been attacked by the fox, their necks neatly punctured,...Read More →
"You can't waste God's gift, can you?" Was what she said.
Though born in Boston, I spent most of my childhood years in Japan, returning to U.S. as a thirteen year old. In Lincoln Middle School (now a police building) located in the center of New Providence, N.J., my journey back to the U.S....Read More →
Given 2/14/14 at the Christian Coalition of Colleges and Universities Presidents' gathering.
At a recent commencement at Messiah College, I told a story. I am going to repeat that story here, in addressing you about matters that weigh upon my heart, at this important gathering.
A girl in...Read More →
What is Art? This question has been tossed around often in modern times. This question may be one of the signatures of modernity: art has become all about the question of what it is and what it is not. The question itself has become an endgame: whoever can define it first can dictate the taste...Read More →
Delivered at IAM's Space 38|39 on December 12th, 2013
Recently, I visited my father in Japan.
My father is a pioneer in acoustics, phonetics research. I was born in Boston as my father was doing his post-doc research there with Noam Chomsky. My father's Ph.D. thesis was to bring Chomsky's...Read More →
Waters Winery recently announced that they were the only winery in Washington with four wines in the Seattle Met Magazine Top 100 wines for 2013. Waters has invited me to provide the label design for now famed 21 Grams wine since 2005. The partnership has provided funds for International Arts...Read More →
A girl in northern Iraq ran toward a bunker with her father. A Japanese photographer was capturing this unfolding drama on the front lines of the war, and he followed the girl with his camera until she was safely behind the bunker. But as he...Read More →
Judy and I met on the first day of our semester as Freshmen in the beige study lounge at Bucknell University. She was simply thrilled to begin her journey as a college student. Even though I had spent the last years navigating through a public school system in New Jersey, my English reading...Read More →
Dear Refraction readers:
As the Cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel to consider a momentous decision for the future of the church, I pulled out an essay that I began to write two summers ago, after visiting the famed Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Until now, I held back from...Read More →
Refractions 37: From Ground Zero to Fujimura Farm
When I left for an exhibit in Tokyo in early December of 2011, I left my loft on Murray Street that I lived in for the past fifteen years, three blocks away from where the World Trade Towers stood, never to return again as a resident of...Read More →
“A Bugle Call for Artists”
In reflecting on the recent horrific events at Sandy Hook elementary school, I recall here a portion of my essay from my Refractions book. Now that “Ground Zero” has been extended to include even a sleepy New England town of Newtown, turning a Christmas tree...Read More →
When I spoke at the last IAM gathering on "Culture Care," I referred to the coming paradigm shift for the galleries of Chelsea. I painted a rather gloomy picture. Never did I imagine then the catastrophic damage that all of the ground floor galleries in Chelsea district would receive...Read More →
"What do you want to make today?" (Click here to see the video)
For Biola University Commencement Address (for undergraduates), 2012
At Beacon High School, a creative charter school in New York City, an incoming freshman class enter first into an art room located at the center...
The Starry Night
Commencement for Graduate Students
Congratulations on this day; a day to celebrate your accomplishments, as well as to mark a beginning of your career, and your path to reveal your particular calling. This is a genesis moment. No matter what your journey has...Read More →
Dear Refraction readers:
During time spent with my family over Thanksgiving, I had an engaged conversation with my second son C.J. about the current Occupy Wall Street movement. As I've been writing a "Letter to" series on my website, I decided to add this letter to the collection....Read More →
Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. Elie Wiesel
On 9/11/2001, one of the engines from the...Read More →
Her homestead appeared on the left, on the genteel slope downhill from Amherst's main street. The brick Federal Revival style house, painted a light ochre with deep mossy green shutters, stands dignified, but if it was not marked as a museum, we would have walked right past it. Standing in the...Read More →
The Aroma of the New
I am grateful to be given this honor: an honor that is symbolic of the commitment to the arts that Belhaven University, Dr. Roger Parrot, and your Board of Trustees have made. You are making a statement;...Read More →
Makoto Fujimura will deliver the commencement address to the class of
2011 at Belhaven University's Jackson, MS campus on April 30th. At
this time he will also be presented with an Honorary Doctorate in
recognition of his artistic career, as well as his contributions to
leadership in the...
Originally written for Image Journal: Twentieth Anniversary Issue, Issue 60
In 1992, Jeffery Deitch, an influential Soho Gallery owner, curated an exhibit called “Post-Human.” In the catalogue he wrote:
What we do know is that we will soon be forced by...Read More →
Dear Young Artist:
Remember your first love—how much you enjoyed creating as a child. If you ever lose that sense of joy, you will need to reflect on why you lost that spark. Of course, the craft of expression takes much “dying to self” and much discipline. A discipline of any form takes...Read More →
This was delivered at the Eighth Letter Conference for the Epiphaneia group in Toronto. The presenters were asked to write a letter to the churches of North America in the style of the Revelation letters in the New Testament. The full version will be published in their anthology in 2011.
I...Read More →
I am happy to announce that Crossway has released early renderings for the upcoming Four Holy Gospels project. The leather-bound bible will feature five new large works and dozens of smaller "letters" paintings as drop caps. The project will be released in January 2011 in commemoration of the...Read More →
Charles Darwin opens the Origin of Species this way:
When on board H.M.S. ‘Beagle’ as a naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the organic beings inhabiting South America, and in the geological relations of...Read More →
My upcoming exhibit, Soliloquies, will be in the Main Gallery from May 21 through June 25, 2010. The exhibit is curated by Cynthia Peltier and funded through the generous support of the Bucknell University Association for the Arts. It is organized by the Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University in...Read More →
What a strange beginning to what many have called “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”
A teenage girl engaged to a carpenter gets pregnant. She claims that an Angel appeared to her to say that she would have a virgin birth. Her fiancé is hesitant to believe her. They cannot make it back home when...Read More →
Until a poet friend informed me, I did not realize that I had inadvertently renamed Nathanial Hawthorne's short story. She said "Hey, Mako, it's 'of.' But I can see where you're going with that slightly altered title..." I had been calling it "The Artist and the Beautiful," (in a series of...Read More →
Dear Refractions readers:
My next Refractions (34) called "The Artist and the Beautiful: Hawthorne, Darwin and the Watchmaker" will be out soon.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Ralph McInerny. I wrote about my experience of sitting next to him on the bus as I accompanied The...Read More →
I was selected by Rev. Jay Wegman of Saint John the Divine as the artist commissioned to celebrate the Millennium Christmas and New Years. At their New Year's Eve service, I sat next to Madeline L'Engle (1918-2007). Peter Jennings (1938-2005) reported the evening on ABC news, with my three...Read More →
(Copied from Press Release by Crossway Publishing) Renowned artist and writer Makoto Fujimura is not shy about the importance of his latest project. “Whether I like it or not, this is what I will be remembered by,” Fujimura asserts. “I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that it is a...Read More →
Myriad Parisians, returning home from work, rushed about in the square in front of Gare de Lyon station. "He would have been able to see Seine river," Gilles Rouaut told me, and pointed to far horizon where the newer buildings now block the view. He stroked the chair his grandfather would have...Read More →
"If (artists) are any good, they make art because they have to ... they don’t do it to please the market ... (an Art fair’s) like a free jazz concert in here, with a drunken monkey working the mixing board." Dealer Jeff Poe, Seven Days in the Art World, Sarah Thornton (W.W. Norton)
“The...Read More →
Dear Refractions Readers:
I have been writing for IAM's new Curator Magazine, edited by our Alissa Wilkinson. In the future, I will be placing my "review" like essays on art and film on the Curator, so please check it out. My next Refractions on my collaborative journey with Susie Ibarra (most...Read More →
Dear Refraction Readers,
Ron Kelsey was my intern during September 11th, 2001. He was an art student from Washburn University, also serving on ROTC.
Recently, Ron contacted me from Iraq, where he is stationed and is training to be a chaplain. The photo above was taken while he sat reading my...Read More →
Susie Ibarra, a remarkable percussionist and composer, has invited me to partake in collaboration via live painting and video I produced specifically for her new songs. It will be at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village, NYC.
On April 7th (Tuesday) from 7-9pm
"...a work of art is a gift, not a commodity." Lewis Hyde, Introduction to The Gift
Canal Street, a few blocks from my loft, is known for her hustle and bustle, crowded sidewalks full of counterfeit watches and designer bags, leading from West Side highway to Chinatown. Canal Street spans the...Read More →
International Arts Movement Press Release:
Artist & Author Makoto Fujimura Helps The World To See With His Latest Book, Refractions
NEW YORK, NY (January 22, 2009) - As a painter, Makoto Fujimura practices an ancient Japanese technique using coarsely crushed mineral pigments applied to...Read More →
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.
Adam Smith,...Read More →
“Everything flows and nothing abides; everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.” Heraclitus, Fragments
N.T. Wright, the Bishop of Durham, wanted the title of his new book to be “Life after Life after Death.” Harper Collins, his publisher, decided the title would be a bit confusing, so they...Read More →
Dear Refraction Readers
Thanks to Brad Guise, a premier fashion photographer, Christianity Today selected the image above for their cover this month. The background painting is "Splendor-Ghost," which was part of my Charis exhibit at Dillon Gallery. My wife and Judy and I were also blessed this...Read More →
The Island of the Misfit Toys: New York's Avant-Garde Artists of the late 20th Century.
Part 1: Robert Rauschenberg
"Thus we cover the universe with drawings we have lived." Gaston Bachelard
I had been working on a Refractions entry on the works of American contemporary artist Jasper Johns,...Read More →
On a rainy Saturday morning in February, Judy and I attended a wedding in the city. The bride was a daughter of good friends involved with a mission organization that serves the poor in the city. The Kleinknechts became for us surrogate city parents when we moved back to the New York area in...Read More →
(Delivered on March 1st, 2008, IAM Gathering at TriBeCa Performance Center)
I begin with a photo of an installation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage (Credit: Melanie Einzig 2006 Courtesy: Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust), over looking the Hudson River, only a mile...Read More →
Walking around the splendidly renovated Morgan Library in Holiday lit New York City, taking in the recent exhibit of van Gogh letters written to his younger contemporary, Emile Bernard, I had an epiphany. First, I was forced to admit the obvious: Vincent wrote and read in multiple languages. The...Read More →
The road back from Xian airport felt dusty to my skin, even riding inside a comfortable bus for the US delegation. The pale sky seemed weighed down, thick with coal fumes from the nearby factories. Bicycles crisscrossed the road, even on the highways, farmers and workers somehow managing to...Read More →
Dear Refractions Readers:
This photo is from St. James Castle, Kinsale, Ireland.
My next Refractions essay on China trip will be uploaded soon (hopefully). I am pleased to announce that NavPress will be publishing past Refractions essays into a book, so I'll keep you updated on that.
I just...Read More →
Happy Fourth of July!
My recent installation photos in Kansas City are available.
You will see a major installation for the brand new headquarters of DEMDACO. The image moves from "Shalom Vision" (left) to "Golden Splendor,"(right) taking the theme of "The world that ought to be," and our...Read More →
In July, 1973, I landed in Newark Airport with my father, one of the leading phonetics research scientists in the world. Just before the airplane skidded onto the runway, feeling a bit queasy, I looked toward the east and saw the Twin Towers, freshly built. This is America, the towers seem to say,...Read More →
Susie and I are working toward her Carnegie Hall debut in October (I will prepare the accompanying visuals, and possibly even paint live there as well). This collaboration will be much more spontaneous and experimental in nature. Plywood Film has been documenting the process of our collaborations...Read More →
Last summer, the year that the Saint Louis Cardinals won the World Series, I found myself sitting in their brand new Busche stadium, at seats A1 and A2 with my son Ty. I could smell the freshly cut grass, impeccably manicured in front of us, mixed with the rubber scent of a sparkling red dugout...Read More →
Text from "Being a Child of the Creative Age"
Keynote by Makoto Fujimura, International Arts Movement's Redemptive Culture Conference, 2007, at TriBeCa Performance Center, Ground Zero.
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a...
I recently found myself at New York’s Symphony Space, listening to the voices of soldiers. As a National Council on the Arts member, I was representing the National Endowment for the Arts for the release of “Operation Homecoming” (Random House, edited by Andrew Carroll). The N.E.A. gave returning...Read More →
During my recent exhibit for The City of London Festival (my installation art is documented below), I had a great pleasure of meeting Yoko Ono. We were the two visual artists selected for the festival's theme of Japan. She kindly folded an origami crane to celebrate our exhibits.Read More →
The All Hallow's Installation in London this summer consisted of three Mercy Seat that used my children’s arm measurements (Ty, 17, C.J., 15, and Lydia, 13) as their “portraits.” (more information on my Mercy Seat series). I also floated "Nagasaki Koi" video on top of the installation (thanks to...Read More →
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathaniel asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. John 1:46
The glass door automatically shut behind us as the guide motioned us to enter the inner chamber. We waited, and as another door opened, the cool, dry air enveloped us; a contrast to the hot,...Read More →
"Designing a dream city is easy," she concluded. "Rebuilding a living one takes imagination." Jane Jacobs, (New York Times, April 26th 2006)
Jane Jacobs passed away a few days ago at the age of 89 in a Toronto Hospital. A day later, there were several flowers placed in front of 555 Hudson...Read More →
It all started again when I visited the Fra Angelico (1395-1455) exhibit at the Met last December.1
Behind the splendor of the Christmas cresche, I entered the back hall of the Met. Surprisingly, there was no line (as opposed to the van Gogh drawing exhibit – 45 minutes). But there was a hushed...Read More →
Dear Refraction Readers:
For the upcoming International Arts Conference’s 15th year anniversary conference, “Artist as Reconcilers,” I am preparing the following series of essays about art called “A.R.T.: Awareness, Reconciliation and Transformation”. Here is my introduction section. The whole...Read More →
Could King Kong be a better film than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?
It is said that J.R.R. Tolkien disliked the Narnia stories, written by his closest literary comrade, C.S. Lewis. He found them to be a "a hodgepodge of myths.” This December, two films vie for a permanent place in our...Read More →
I came home from Japan with my email box full of congratulations on my being selected as World Magazine's "Daniel of the Year". Since I was quite unaware of this (they told me only that they had been working on a story on me...), it came as quite a surprise, and made me think of the real Daniel...Read More →
We have been taking my eldest son, Ty (17), on college tours of late, traveling mostly up and down the East Coast. Having been raised in New York City, he’s been curiously interested in only city schools. “An enclave of pseudo-community,” is the expression he’s used to describe some of the...Read More →
Water Flames Exhibit has been selected on Terry Teachout's top five list.
GALLERY: Makoto Fujimura, Water Flames (Sara Tecchia Roma New York, 529 W. 20, up through Oct. 23). An exceptionally handsome new Chelsea gallery opens its doors with a show of large-scale paintings on paper inspired by a...Read More →
Thank you for coming to this artist-talk event and the exhibit Water Flames. I am grateful for this dialogue, and to be on this journey together. I want to thank Sara and Benjamin for their support, as well as allowing me to speak tonight.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall...
In a beautiful new gallery, I am pleased to install these new works, loosely based on Dante's The Divine Comedy. Please note the artist talk event on Oct. 7th will also feature Susie Ibarra. Her music is dubbed with a documentary style video in the video created by Joey Tomassoni's team in the...Read More →
I am down in Leesburg, Florida visiting my parents-in-law. My father-in-law, Terry Beebe, is on the board of Leesburg Center for the Arts, and invited me to speak to supporters of the arts. It was my delight to do so.
Here's what I spoke on:
"The aim of art is to represent not the...Read More →
Zero Summer imagines the unimaginable horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and yet points to epiphanic awakening that transcend human imagination at the same time. T.S. Eliot, who coined this term in his “Four Quartets,” longed for that eternal summer, birthed out of the "still point," where...Read More →
On the day that the Arkansas Democrat reported the sighting of thought-to-be-extinct ivory-billed woodpeckers, I toured the Tyson kill factory in Springdale, Arkansas where two hundred thousand Cornish hens are eviscerated each day. The director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture’s Faith as a...Read More →
Bill T. Jones started to sing, as he stepped out from the audience. He sang an old spiritual, and he slowly stepped down the stairs moving into the main stage, and his body swayed, his feet began to tap. The Kitchen, a black-box theatre located in Chelsea, Manhattan, a catalyst for much of...Read More →
I recently visited the town of Imadate, a premier papermaking town in western Japan. As I arrived in the local train station, a freshly fallen snow highlighted the thatched rooves of traditional houses. Nestled in between the mountains of western Japan, the town in Fukui prefecture has an ideal...Read More →
From The Terminal to The Polar Express, old-fashioned innocence is back in Hollywood, winking her magical charm into our lives this year. But this charm seems most evanescent in Miramax’s “Finding Neverland,” which I recently happened to catch en route to Osaka for an exhibit at Yoshiaki Inoue...Read More →
On a grey February Saturday morning, I headed out to experience the unfurling of the “Gates” installation at Central Park. When I arrived at Columbus Circle, the thousands of orange gates (7500 total) lined up in the walking path, greeting us. Before the unfurling, you could see through the gates...Read More →
In sunny Santa Barbara, California last December, I had the pleasure of being invited as a visiting artist at Westmont College. One morning, I got to take a walk along the beach, only a few minutes from a hotel filled with Charlie Chaplin posters. Home of multi-millionaires and legends of the...Read More →
Mr. Harada, the organizer of the “Considering Peace” exhibit last year, surprised me with a suggestion: “How about if we close our exhibit on the 24th, Christmas Eve?”
“Considering Peace” was a benefit exhibit of over 120 artists, mostly from Japan. I initiated this idea as I planned for a...Read More →
On a balmy November day, we were privileged to attend the National Medal of the Arts and Humanities awards at the White House. Among the luminaries awarded were dancer Twyla Tharp, science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, writer Madeleine L’Engle, opera composer Carlisle Floyd, and remarkable...Read More →
“The Voting Booth Project: Where art and democracy collide…” was the title of a benefit exhibit at Parson’s School of Design that I was being invited to. Curator Chee Pearlman gathered fifty designers and artists to give each artist the infamous portable voting booths (with “chads” still inside!)...Read More →
The P.S. 234 gymnasium, two blocks from Ground Zero, was nearly empty when I entered to vote. This is the same gym where my children played basketball, the same gym where they waited for evacuation orders on September the 11th. Except for a woman police officer, and several volunteers, the space...Read More →
“I thought I had been unwittingly commissioned do the sound track to the end of the world.” So reflected musician/composer William Basinski at a gathering in Greenwich Village to commemorate the first anniversary of September 11th. In the background played his melancholic composition,...Read More →
Due to my brother’s wedding to a Chinese-American bride, I had the opportunity to travel through China with my two boys. In Hong Kong, we visited my painting, Golden Pine an enormous commission of 1999-2000 at the Oxford House in Tai Koo Place, the home of CNN/Time Warner. We then traveled to...Read More →
Every morning, Bert drew a weather map on the blackboard with his saliva. Carefully, he sketched out the exact weather map that he had seen the previous night in the news. I can see him now, tilting his head, limping slightly as he moved, and drawing using his index finger. This act, seen by many...Read More →
Nihonga master Matazo Kayama passed away about a month ago, and I wanted to pay homage to his legacy during my recent stay in Japan by visiting a special retrospective exhibit of his work in Tokyo. I studied under him during my graduate study years at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and...Read More →
Dana Gioia, the current chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, recalls his years as a vice president of General Foods. “I would come home too late, and very tired,” he has stated in his interviews, “but each night, I made myself sit down at my desk and simply copy the last paragraph of...Read More →
As I spend time working in my studio, as I travel from Washington D.C. , to Japan and back to New York City, I’ve often wanted to have more opportunities to share what has transpired, and inspired me. This is my attempt to do so regularly. Refractions is a way to keep you updated on my journeys...Read More →
In these new paintings I use a semi-transparent layering effect that traps light between the pigments and layers of gold or silver foil. This creates a 'grace arena' in which the captured light creates space. The result is neither the Renaissance system of creating pictorial depth through...Read More →
In the aftermath of the Columbine High school shooting, and upon a recommendation by a photographer friend (who covered the tragic event for the New York Post), I walked in the mountains of Colorado, looking for wild columbine flowers. They grow numerous on the sunny mountain faces in summer,...Read More →
"Had I come out from the school five seconds earlier," said my ten-year old son C.J. when I finally found him, "I would have been in trouble." He was covered in that white dust, later called "dust of death." His hair now coated in specks, his black backpack, now grey. When the second Trade tower...Read More →
The layers of azurite pigments, spread over paper as I let the granular pigments cascade. My eyes see much more than what my mind can organize. As the light becomes trapped within pigments, a "grace arena" is created, as the light is broken, and trapped in refraction. Yet, my gestures are...Read More →
It has been said that we worship what the tallest buildings in our cities represent. The spires of churches defined the landscape in previous centuries, but had been replaced in our generation by those "punch card" twin towers, as our pride of progress. The Twin towers were the twin visions of...Read More →
We drove north. Miraculously, we were able to get access to our car out of our garage before it was shut down for a week because of a gas leak. We could still smell the acrid smoke even near the George Washington Bridge at the north end of Manhattan. We drove to Oneonta NY, after dropping off a...Read More →
"The layers of azurite pigments," I wrote for an exhibit in Santa Fe called "Beauty without Regret," "spread over paper as I let the granular pigments cascade. My eyes see much more than what my mind can organize. As the light becomes trapped within pigments, a 'grace arena' is created, as the...Read More →