Visual artist Naoe Suzuki, responding to the ArtSake discussion: What role does research play in your art?
Curiosity leads me into research. I’ve been working on drawings based on maps of the Adirondacks. My curiosity was aroused from looking at maps of the Adirondacks and noticing many names of animals being used for places. I studied digital collections from the Levanthal Map Center at the Boston Public Library and also looked at original maps in person. Looking at originals gives me a sense of scale, time, and history, and that’s important to me for shaping my ideas.
Reading helps shape my view on a subject I’m working on. On the Adirondacks, I’m reading about the history and thinking about relationships humans forge with the land and its species. The Adirondack Park is a part of New York’s Forest Preserve. It was established in 1892 for “the free use of all the people for their health and pleasure” and the move to preserve the wilderness was initially for watershed protection. Learning about the subject creates a conceptual ground for me to keep engaging with it, but I also learn a great deal from looking and tracing maps or sometimes texts. My research and studio practice go parallel. It’s a learning process on both ends that I find pleasure in doing.
I’m a visual artist but I’ve been also a student of dance for over three decades. The last four years I’ve been studying Gaga movement which is developed by a choreographer named Ohad Naharin. In Gaga, students are led by instructors to create their own movement without stopping, connecting with own senses, and listening to our bodies on the molecular level. Instructors say something like, “Sensitive skin, thick texture, soft, available to collapse, find pleasure,” then say, “continue your research.” And we do our research by moving bodies.
During the pandemic, I’ve been taking online Gaga class every day since April. I haven’t had this much of continued engagement with dance in decades even though I’m an avid dancer for a long time. Now, I try to bring this awareness to my studio practice, beyond just looking, and trying to listen and feel on the molecular level. I’m thinking what research means to an artist in the studio in a new way, beyond experimenting with materials.
– Naoe Suzuki (Drawing & Printmaking Fellow ’06)
Return to the discussion: What role does research play in your art?
Image: Naoe Suzuki (Drawing & Printmaking Fellow ’06), MAP OF RAQUETTE LAKE, NEW YORK, USGS 1997 (2020), mineral pigment and color pencil on found map, 23.5×39 in, photo by Julia Featheringill.