We had the good fortune of connecting with Chieko Murasugi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chieko, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I always loved to paint and draw but did not become a professional artist until I had earned a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology and worked as a postdoctoral researcher in visual neuroscience. It was only then that I realized that my native talents and passion lie in art, not science. I had studied art, as well as psychology, as a college student but could not imagine a life as an artist at the time. When I finally made the commitment to be an artist, it felt like the right decision and I was ready to give this career my 100%.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My collage-paintings are complex abstractions that integrate many sources of influence including personal memories, family history, science, and contemporary events. The materials I use in my paintings are meaningful. I reference my past by incorporating my diary pages from the 1970’s, and my family history is revealed in collage pieces that mimic samurai weapons and armors. I use nori (dried seaweed sheets), origami colors, and calligraphic ink to address my Japanese heritage.. My interest in visual science is reflected in the visual illusions that pervade my work—ambiguous forms that shift planes and shapes as one gazes at them. Using these materials and formal tools I address universal and contemporary questions such as the nature of identity, history, and truth (reality). My path to where I am professionally has been long and winding. After science, I tried making many different types of art while raising two children with my husband, a busy neuroscientist. My art finally reached its current mature phase after I completed an MFA in Studio Art at UNC Chapel Hill at age 62. What I have learned throughout my career is try different things when unsure of one’s path, to embrace opportunities, and to continually be open to the ideas and issues that have deep personal resonance.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is the oldest public university in the country, so it is a must is to walk around its historical campus. After a coffee break at Driade Cafe or the Open Eye in Carrboro, the adjoining town, we might pick up some biscuits at Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen which was started by a couple of UNC students. Chapel Hill has a blossoming art scene that includes UNC’s Ackland Museum, contemporary galleries such as OneOneOne and FRANK, as well as new artist-run spaces such Local 506, Peel Gallery, and BASEMENT. Further afield in the NC Triangle, art spaces worth visiting are Lump, CAM Raleigh, 21C Hotel, Anchorlight, Craven Allen Gallery, the Nasher Museum, ArtSpace. and the NC Museum of Art. For dinner we could, grab some BBQ at the Original Q Shack or The Pit in Durham. Dame’s Chicken and Waffles is an institution, as are Mama Dips for southern cooking.. For contemporary fine dining my favorite is Hawthorne & Wood, and for old time Southern hospitality we’d visit the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club or the Carolina Inn (UNC). We could end the day drinking craft beer at Steel String Brewery in Carrboro or Ponysaurus in Durham. Or if we prefer wine or cocktails we’d chat and relax at Bar Virgile or Bowbarr.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My biggest shoutout is to my parents, Yasue and Kunio Murasugi. I immigrated with them to Toronto from Tokyo when I was three years old. My mother, a painter, and my mathematician father always encouraged their three daughters’ in their creative endeavors. Even at ages 90 and 91, my parents follow my career with interest and are big fans of my work. They taught me that imagination, hard work, and integrity are the foundations of a well-lived life. My sisters, my children, and my husband also deserve big shoutouts for their unwavering love and support for me and my art practice. I’ve also had fabulous teachers and mentors who have encouraged me at various stages in my education and career: Ronald Bloore, Connie Lowe, Paul Kratter, Beverly Mayeri, Jan-Ru Wan, Gesche Werfel, Yun-Dong Nam, and Lien Truong.
Linkedin: Chieko Murasugi
Other: https://www.wiregrassmuseum.org/b20-artist-interview-with-chieko-murasugi/ www.basementartspace.com
Peter Geoffrion, Barbara Tyroler