By Kristin Wissler
Boston, MA – By the time I arrived at the opening reception for Sachiko Akiyama’s “Between Here and There” exhibition at Matter & Light Fine Art, one of the newest galleries in Boston’s SoWa District, there was a crowd of people in and around the gallery, eager to see the works. The atmosphere was lively and energetic, a contrast from the calm and serenity provided by Akiyama’s pieces.
Curated by Nina Nielson, former proprietor of the Nielson Gallery, “Between Here and There” features mainly sculptures. Akiyama’s work is handcrafted, and it’s easy to see the love she puts into her pieces. The sculptures have a quiet, emotional beauty to them, which Nielson and Ian Corbin, the director of Matter & Light, deeply appreciate.
“I favor art that isn’t just for drama or entertainment,” said Nielson. “I want feeling and voice.” Akiyama’s Japanese heritage is the driving force behind her own voice, lending to the peaceful yet powerful presence her works create. “Her work has real seriousness and depth, but has deep human compassion as well,” Corbin said. Indeed, many of the elements that characterize her work play into both those categories, from the handcrafted style to the content of the image itself.
One sculpture in particular, “Between Dream and Memory,” captures this duality well. It depicts a young, barefoot Japanese girl in a red dress, using both arms to hold a crane nearly as big as she is. Neither the bird or the girl are particularly emotive; indeed, the girl’s expression is nearly blank. This is part of what gives the sculpture a calm, dreamy quality. At the same time, it underscores the silent power of the girl, steadfastly holding onto the crane.
Akiyama’s handcrafting is evident in the piece, giving it an element of care and love, while also making the subject tangible and solid. The title of the sculpture leads the viewer to ask which elements are real, and which ones are exaggerated or completely imagined. The emotionality of the work, however, is unquestionably true.
However, the sculptures weren’t the only works of art present at the reception. Also at Matter & Light that night (Sept. 16) was Chimera New Music, a Boston-based collective. Their performance, titled “Mirror in Mirror,” mainly featured pieces by Estonian classical and religious composer Arvo Pärt.
When asked why this music was paired with Akiyama’s work, Corbin explained that he had met the collective of musicians while working at a different gallery. “They had just applied for a grant to do interdisciplinary projects,” he said, “It was good timing.” With Nielson’s help, he and Chimera New Music found composers and compositions that fit Akiyama’s work.
“I like Pärt’s work for the same reasons I like Sachiko’s,” Nielson explained. “Music is a moving thing, just like the sculptures. You move through the sculptures; the music moves through you.”
Interestingly enough, the viewer’s responses to the inclusion of music were somewhat mixed. Some people said the music made them look at the art differently and associate certain compositions with certain artworks, giving them a bigger appreciation for both. Others, on the other hand, felt that one art form distracted them from the other, hampering their enjoyment of the pieces. Luckily, most people were in
the former camp.
I, too, felt that the music and the art worked well together. The gentle yet powerful notes melded perfectly with Akiyama’s serene and solid works, and each enhanced the other. Nielson told me that when she looks at an artist’s work, she asks, “Will the art be as powerful in 5,000 years as it is now? Will people still appreciate it?” In regards to Akiyama’s work, the answer is clear.
(“Sachiko Akiyama: Between Here and There” continues through Oct. 31 at Matter & Light Fine Art, 63 Thayer St., Boston, Mass. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon-6 p.m., on Sunday from noon-4 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call (857-990-3931.)