When did you decide to make pieces with multiple parts using these few techniques? Can you describe the process of discovery?
Mariko Kusumoto: When I was a printmaking major, I felt awkward because everything is backwards when you are working on the plate and once the lines are incised in the metal plate it’s hard to correct them. The images needed to be planned ahead of time and I couldn’t expect very much of an accidental quality in the work. I was frustrated with the indirect method of printmaking. When I started to work in three-dimensions, I became free. I enjoyed playing with space and liked the accidental quality. Although complicated techniques are unnecessary to achieve what I want to express, I always like to experiment with new techniques in metal and also different materials.
Your work has been compared as Joseph Cornell boxes, nostalgic puppet shows and paper dolls, children’s toys and surreal worlds. What do you think they are?
Mariko Kusumoto: When I was a child, everything was filled with mystery and marvels. Stones, insects, wood grains, rusted metal, shells, shapes of clouds, the smell of erasers, hollows in stepping stones created by years of raindrops, mysterious objects emerging from my grandmother’s dresser drawer . . . I used to find unlimited meaning, surprises and universes in them. As adults, those things become just normal, ordinary and valueless and they no longer surprise us anymore. As children we were imaginative and able to go between the real world and the unreal world freely. The passage of time deprives us of this poetic and marvelous world and a stone becomes just a stone.
Sometimes people compare my work and Joseph Cornell’s work. If grown-up viewers see my work or his work and it evokes nostalgic feelings, there might be something in the artwork that triggers something they’ve lost or forgotten since becoming adults. Inside the boxes, which detach time and space from the real world, I strive to create poetic and mysterious worlds. Not literal work but something that stimulates the viewer’s imagination while at the same time leaving some space and incompleteness for the viewer to participate or fill in with their imagination. Using the surreaIist technique of irrational juxtaposition, I assemble found objects, etched images and photos.
Recently you started to video your pieces using stop action. What inspired you to start doing this? Were you inspired other artists or filmmakers in particular?
Mariko Kusumoto: When I was a student, I saw in class the film Street of Crocodiles, directed by the Brothers Quay. I was deeply moved, not only by the beauty of each scene but also by the combination of music and the movement. I thought that this is the most powerful art form. I often imagine that the pieces are moving and talking while I’m creating them. Although I like art as a quiet, still form, I want to give life to them using stop-motion techniques. I want to give life to them using stop motion technique.
Can you tell me the story behind the Bloomingdale’s box? Where did the imagery come from?
Mariko Kusumoto: The images came from a copyright-free book called Bloomingdale’s Illustrated 1886 Catalog, reprinted by Dover Publications. I was very fascinated by the detail of the images and at the same time it has a surreal and mysterious quality to it. Inside the house-shaped exterior box, there are seven pages, which represent the different floors and there are different things displayed. After opening all of the floors, there is a dress-shaped dresser on wheels, with wearable pieces included in the drawers.
How about the Sideshow box?
Mariko Kusumoto: I’m attracted by the mysterious and spooky atmosphere that circuses and sideshows have. In my Sideshow piece, there are rooms for the five performers inside the tent. Each one of them can perform.
Do you enjoy going to the movies? What have you seen lately of interest?
Mariko Kusumoto: I enjoy watching movies, especially stop-motion animation, but I haven’t seen any movies lately.