Interview with Sachiko Akiyama

Sachiko Akiyama, Deeper Than You Imagined, 2012, Wood, paint

Interview with Sachiko Akiyama
Being & Feeling (Alone, Together)

Spring 2020 – Virtual Exhibition at Lamont Gallery

Artists in Being & Feeling (Alone, Together) explore embodiment, emotion, and being: how we make our way through the world, full of feeling, as solitary individuals and together with others.

Sculptor Sachiko Akiyama carves beautifully introspective figures from wood which are then hand painted in muted, translucent tones that highlight the texture of the carved wood. The figures in Akiyama’s work, often paired with animals or elements from nature, are inspired by personal memories, family history, and dreams, an “exploration of how tactile, physically assertive forms can describe the psyche—not a specific emotion or thought, but rather a state of concentration and introspection.”


Sachiko Akiyama, Mountain/Sky, 2019, Wood, paint, resin

Q: When did you start sculpting in wood and what came first, woodcuts, reliefs or sculpture? What is your wood of choice for sculpting and for printmaking?

A: Wood is a material that I have been drawn to for nearly all of my life. When I was a child, I had my own set of simple woodworking tools. I took my first wood sculpture class in college.  I was mostly carving figures and hands. In college, I also took an array of other art classes including printmaking. I started making woodcuts over the past few years. I use my woodcarving tools to make the woodcuts. The mark-making involved with creating a woodcut relates directly to the process of resolving the surfaces of my sculptures.

One of the reasons why I gravitate towards using wood in my work is because it is an organic material that exudes warmth. I frequently leave the natural wood surface on completed sculptures. For this reason, I use woods such as bass and butternut, which can read as skin tones.

Sachiko Akiyama, Bird in Hand, 2007, Wood, paint

Q: I find a contrast between your serene sculpted figures and your dynamic woodcut prints; they almost seem unrelated. Are you contemplating different issues, or themes when you work one process or the other? 

A: I want my sculptures to seem silent and meditative.  The figures direct attention inwardly. I think of my sculptures as internal portraits that describe our inner lives. The flying birds are metaphors for this ephemeral and intangible internal space.

Sachiko Akiyama, Finding Home, 2013, Wood, paint, gold leaf. Origins, 2014, Wood, paint, resin

Q: I am very curious about the male and female figures in “Origins” and “Finding Home”, are they a couple?  Do the mountains on the man’s shoulders and the forest on the woman’s shoulders signify different dreams or temperaments? 

A: I want the relationship between the male and female figures to be open to interpretation. Without identifying faces, they could be read as a couple or family members or a universal male and female.

Yes, their landscape “heads” can be read as their dreams or temperaments. We use heads and faces, in particular, to identify people. The mountains and forest serve as a means for understanding who these people are.

GIRL WITH BEAR detail-750
Sachiko Akiyama, Somewhere In Between, 2019, Wood, paint, steel

Q: As I view the woman holding a bear cub in “Somewhere In Between” I wonder about the motive. Is she expressing nurturing tendencies? Does she want to be closer to nature and wildlife and feel the need to protect it? Does she feel more comfortable with wildlife than other humans?

Do you use animals and nature as a symbol of feeling removed from or an inability to relate to humans? Or is this relationship a more honorific one, that to be human we are not above animals, we are all part of the same world and working system of being on earth and need to care about and for our natural world?

A: I think of the animals and natural objects (trees, mountains) as a means for understanding the nature of who we are. Nature leaves us clues without giving explicit answers to existential questions. While that is my intention for using natural symbols, I like that other people can have different interpretations such as the one you speculated in your question.

Sachiko Akiyama:
Instagram: @woodchip47

Interview Conducted by Dale Atkins

Dale Atkins has been a Lamont Gallery attendant since 2015. Prior to working at the Gallery, she owned and operated Dale Atkins Painting & Frame Restoration for fifteen years. Dale creates hand-built clay vessels with a focus on design and subtle asymmetry. She also has experience working in steel, wood, copper enamel, textiles, oils and acrylics, leather, silver and other materials. She is often called upon to assist with working in the collection as well as installing exhibitions in the gallery and contributing to other campus arts and cultural project.


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