Guest blog post by Paloma Mayorga
As printmakers from around the country make their way to New Mexico for the inaugural Print Santa Fe festival this month, the work of the 5×5 selected artists reminds us why printmaking is such a unique and powerful tool for storytelling, inspiring empathy and appreciation for individual and shared experiences.
This week, we dive into the work of Japanese American artist Haley Takahashi. Currently an MFA Candidate at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Takahashi draws from traditional Japanese imagery of Edo period Ukiyo-e prints as well as kimono-making traditions and family photographs to create deeply personal works that investigate her family history and relay her own experience as a mixed-race person.
Takahashi describes her practice as liminal, or existing in “the disorienting and undefinable space between a binary.” Determined to unpack the complexities of her Japanese and White heritages, the artist mindfully processes generational trauma and reclamation of her own identity by making her work.
In pieces like Takahashi Family Ties 33 and Takahashi Family Ties 23, Takahashi reproduces old photographs of her parents and grandparents using cyanotype and screen printing techniques on textiles. She then sews red thread patterns and type utilizing her sewing machine, a tool that has been passed down three generations of women on her mother’s side of the family. By incorporating a craft that was specifically taught to her by her own mother into her work, Takahashi carries on family traditions and inadvertently creates a strong connection to her maternal lineage.
In using her photograph archive to uncover her family history in Japanese Internment Camps during World War II, Takahashi expresses a sadness surrounding bits of cultural identity that were taken from her ancestors and today continues to be erased from public spaces and discussions. She recognizes a unique responsibility to tell these stories in order to spark empathy and social change.
In This land is soaked in blood (2019), Takahashi addresses themes of memory and cultural erasure. A large-scale handmade and dyed kimono acts as the surface for a bold screen-printed pattern made up of a Civilian Exclusion Order that was publicly posted along the West Coast to notify people of Japanese ancestry of their imminent forced removal after Executive Order 9066 was issued by President Roosevelt in 1942. For Takahashi, kimonos act as an extension of the body while speaking to the absence of the figure. The lovingly sewn kimono is made tragic by the threatening infamous words “Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry” —a brilliant and effective way of making reference to the history of printmaking as a communication tool.
Takahashi expands into a series of self-portraits in the style of bijin-ga prints. But rather than perpetuating the objectification of the bodies of Japanese women that were present in the ancient prints, she portrays contemporary scenes of her own body to provide a window into her life, authentically dealing with feelings of longing, isolation, and loneliness.
Yet, as she experiments with images like these, Takahashi struggles with a sense of ownership over specific imagery of her cultural heritage and questions whether referencing the aesthetics of these ancient art forms treads the dangerous territory of cultural appropriation. “What does it mean for me as a Japanese American, as someone who is biracial, to have to reach for these cultural symbols because it was something that was taken away or that was looked down upon historically?”
She discusses these complexities in her recent interview for Hello, Print Friend with Miranda Metcalf, founder of Print Santa Fe and one of the curators of the 5×5 exhibition.
To learn more about Haley Takahashi’s work, visit haleytakahashi.com or see her work in person at Zane Bennett Contemporary Art in Santa Fe from April 28 through June 17, 2023.
About the Exhibition
In its inaugural year, Print Santa Fe presents its first 5×5 juried exhibition during the month-long festival. Modeled after PrintAustin’s 5×5 exhibition, which started in 2021 as an online exhibit, five artists are selected based on a cohesive body of work made up of five print-based works. In 2023, PrintAustin added a new dynamic to the open call and had two jurors pulling from identical submissions, creating two separate exhibitions–one hosted by Link&Pin during PrintAustin, and the other to be presented at Zane Bennet Contemporary Art during the inaugural sister festival in April 2023.
Print Santa Fe’s 5×5 exhibition is juried by Print Santa Fe founder and host of Hello, Print Friend podcast, Miranda Metcalf, alongside Jordan Eddy of Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, and Isabella Beroutsos of Radius Books. The Print Santa Fe 5×5 presents an exciting group of printmakers on the rise who use the medium to conduct aesthetic investigations into cultural identity and complex histories.
Print Santa Fe partners with Miranda Metcalf and Reinaldo Zambrano of Hello, Print Friend and Jamal Barber of Studio Noize Podcast to conduct interviews with each of the selected artists to dive deeper into their artistic practice and inspiration behind their works.
Acting as the fiscal sponsor of Print Santa Fe, you can support our sister festival by making a donation to PrintAustin. Help us continue our artist-led efforts to share our love of printmaking and help our sister festival grow!