B20 Artist Interview with Chieko Murasugi

B20: Wiregrass Biennial is a juried exhibition that encourages innovative and progressive work and showcases the South’s most talented contemporary artists, illustrating the region’s rich cultural heritage. Selected work utilizes a variety of art forms and media, including paintings, sculptures, mixed media, new media, and installation art. Three jurors chose from a field of over 130 entries for this year’s exhibition — the first virtual exhibition ever for WMA — featuring 39 artists from 11 states.

We’ll be sharing a series of interviews with B20 artists during the run of the exhibition, and our ninth is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina -based artist, Chieko Murasugi.

Where do you find inspiration for your artistic practice?
The primary inspiration for my practice comes from histories: family, art, and social/political. I am particularly interested in how personal and institutional historical narratives are constructed, for this is an active and ever-evolving process.

What is your process for your collage pieces? Do you start with the cutout shapes and build around them or cut the shapes specifically to fit a planned composition?
I start with cutout pieces that I glue onto my substrate in a relatively haphazard manner. Next, I use a sketch app on my iPad to compose my painting. This stage is a lengthy reiterative process for I improvise from the sketches while painting the work.

How does your work explore your personal background and your interest in peaceful resolution to conflict?
My background as a descendant of samurais and a child of Japanese WWII survivors informs all of my work, from its materials to forms. For example, my collage pieces contain marks of violence, such as burns, scratches, and tears. I strive to balance my horror of bloodshed with my wish for peace by containing and integrating these violent marks within enigmatic but harmonious compositions. I, with the late civil rights leader, John Lewis, am a proponent of non-violent resistance and resolution:

“In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way.” John Lewis, New York Times, 7/30/2020

Where do you select the material you will use in your work? Why did you choose to use older works on paper for the Roshambo series?
My materials, such as nori, paper, ink, and origami colors, are traditional Japanese ones. I also use personal archives, such as old diary pages, as well as geographical signifiers such as NC clay. In my Roshambo series I upcycled older works on paper for their marks (i.e. burns, tears) and because they are material fragments from my past.

How does your degree in Experimental Psychology inform your work? Are you tempted to analyze people based on what they see in your abstractions?
My research examined visual perception, specifically how primate brains process visual information. Because of this experience I’m always aware that our brains are tremendous problem-solving machines that resolve abstract and ambiguous inputs. I’m intrigued to learn what different viewers “see” in my paintings. Perhaps not surprisingly, they often detect human figures and faces.

How does living and working in the South impact your work?
The South is so different from all the other places I’ve lived (Toronto, Montreal, Champaign-Urbana IL, and San Francisco) that I feel as though I’ve been transported to a different world. With a sense of wonder I view my surroundings with fresh eyes, and that excitement carries into my practice. I feel even more compelled to experiment with my approaches and materials, an exhilarating process.

What’s next for you? Is there anything new you are working on that you’d like to share with us?
I’m very excited about a new artist run space, BASEMENT, that I, with seven other local artists, opened last year in Chapel Hill. As curators, our mission is to showcase artists from the Southeast whose thought-provoking work engages fellow artists and community members in meaningful dialogue. We curated our first show, Breathing Without a Body, last fall, and were planning our second show when the COVIVD-19 pandemic struck. For now we are maintaining a digital presence and planning in-person events for the hopefully not-too-distant future. One of BASEMENT’s goals is to promote openness to different points of view in a time of national discord, for this is key to fostering tolerance and reconciliation.

Our website is www.Basementartspace.com @basementartspace

Youth Art Education Policy

Outside of tours, family days, and open house events, individuals who are not enrolled in a class are not allowed in WMA classrooms except by written permission of the Executive Director. Parents may not join children in the classroom during instruction times in order to ensure an atmosphere conductive to creativity. It is important to limit the number of adults to keep the focus on the kids, their learning, and to accommodate limited seating in the studio. Parents are welcome to stay in the museum during class but must remain outside of the classroom during instruction time.

Museum educators are experienced in creating positive learning environments for all ages and are required to go through a background check to ensure the safety of our students. Parents and guardians are encouraged to visit the studio at the end of class to see what their child has created. All docents and volunteers working with children are also required to go through background checks.

Thank you for understanding our policy and priority on the safety and well-being of participating students.

Refund Policy

The Wiregrass Museum of Art may cancel any class with insufficient enrollment; students will be notified and given a full refund. If a student withdraws at least 1 week before the class begins, he/she will be refunded for the full cost of the class. If a student withdraws 24 hours before the class begins, he/she will be refunded for half the cost of the class. There are no refunds after the start date of class, and membership fees are nonrefundable. Students are not enrolled until complete payment is received.

Terms and Conditions

The Wiregrass Museum of Art reserves the right to photograph and reproduce chosen works publication, publicity, and educational purposes. Participation in this exhibition shall be an agreement on the part of the artist to these conditions. The museum reserves the right to exclude works submitted without appropriate preparation (documentation, mounting hardware, suitable frame/mat, etc.), or which are damaged or incomplete. The museum is not responsible for the safekeeping of any works left in its care ninety (90) days after the close of the exhibition.

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Mask Policy

WMA asks that all campers ages 5 and up wear a mask during their museum visit, including classes and camps. If you don’t have a mask, we can provide one for you. Exceptions can be made for those with documented respiratory or sensory issues. We thank you for protecting your fellow visitors and our staff!

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