Project Description

Esther Shimazu

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Esther Shimazu is the granddaughter of Japanese immigrant laborers and was born and raised in suburban Honolulu, Hawaii in a large, close-knit family. She attended public schools and the University of Hawaii/Manoa near her home before transferring to the University of Massachusetts/Amherst to obtain her Bachelor of Fine Art in 1980 and a Master of Fine Art in 1982.

Over the years, Shimazu has established herself as one of Hawaii’s best-known artists. She received a Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation Purchase Award in 2001, and an Individual Artist Fellowship award from the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. Shimazu’s rise to success was not an isolated process, however. She drew inspiration from the great Toshiko Takaezu, also Japanese-American from Hawaii who left home to study on the mainland and in Japan. Shimazu’s work references Japanese culture often, specifically the delicate folding fans; ceramics itself is a medium rooted in Shimazu’s ancestry. Shimazu’s art is further influenced by her interest in nature, history, and family. In creating her distinctively charming stoneware pieces, she draws heavily from her experience as an Asian-American living in Hawaii. She is best known for her stoneware sculptures of bald, nude, chunky Asian women constructed with hand-building techniques. Her figures are created without complex details in order to accentuate their ceramic origins.

“I greatly prefer the fluid lines and rounded abstraction of the body over the more realistic Hellenistic and European traditions. There are several adorable fat guys like Ganesh (the Hindu elephant-headed god) and Hotei (the Japanese god of happiness and prosperity who carries a bag holding his possessions and perhaps treats for children); both have bulging, exposed bellies and benevolent intentions. The native Hawaiian ideal of beauty is pretty heft as well. We don’t wear as much clothing here (in Hawaii). Bodies are everywhere. We have Polynesians, who are the most robust people on Earth, and Filipinos and Southeast Asians who are among the smallest and most delicate,” Shimazu says.

Despite the heft of Shimazu’s creations, their joy and technical perfection are like the miniature Japanese netsuke figurines in their delicacy, precision and ability to delight as they tell their tale. Along with the glazing of the tiny fingernails, the fine detail of the teeth in her figures’ characteristic smiles is a perfect touch.

Her work has been in such museum exhibitions as the Fuller Art Museum, Brockton, MA – the Nude in Clay II, Perimeter Gallery, Chicago IL, the International Asia-Pacific Exhibition, the Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taipei, Taiwan among others.

Download her digital catalog (pdf)

Artwork

CV

Selected Exhibitions:

2017

The Candace Groot Collection

2016

Michi – Distinctive Paths, Shared Affinity: An Exhibition of Japanese American
Ceramic Artists

2014

Ohana, Kunstforum Solothurn, Solothurn Switzerland

2013

13e Parcours Ceramique Carougeois/ Esther Shimazu, Galerie Atelier Maya Guidi, Carouge Switzerland

2011

Multiple Personalities, Craft Alliance, St. Louis MO

2010

Portraiture Beyond Likeness, Wayne Art Center Philadelphia PA

2009

10th Annual Shoebox Sculpture Exhibition, University of Hawaii/Manoa, Honolulu ; invited artist

2008

Menschenbild, Kunstforum Solothurn, Solothurn Switzerland

Broadsides, Honolulu Academy of Arts Linekona Art Center, Honolulu HI

2009

10th Annual Shoebox Sculpture Exhibition, University of Hawaii/Manoa, Honolulu; invited artist

2008

Menschenbild, Kunstforum Solothurn, Solothurn Switzerland

2007

Esther Shimazu, John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, CA

2005

NCECA Diverse Domain: North American Contemporary Ceramics, Taipei County Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taipei, Taiwan

2003

Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture, San Diego City College

2002

Hawaii Craftsmen Annual Statewide Exhibition, invited artist, Honolulu

1999

Esther Shimazu,Tulsa Artists’ Coalition, Tulsa, OK

1998

Re: FORM, The Fuller Art Museum, Brockton, MA

The Nude in Clay II, Perimeter Gallery, Chicago, IL

Pat Mahony and Esther Shimazu, John Natsoulas Gallery, Davis, CA

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