S. O. S. PROJECT (SAKURA 'O SUKUU)
S. O. S. PROJECT (SAVING Of SAKURA) The New Life Of SAKURA (Cherrywood) Reincarnated as SuiGeneris FUNCTIONAL SCULPTURE
As a self-taught artist, I am a firm believer of serendipity and trial without error—whatever transpires is part of the process and happens for a reason. Because I deal with materials that are very limited in quantity, the so-called error actually turns out to be an amazing opportunity for artistic creativity. While the occurrence of trial and error is a valid tool of experience, in my practice, these unintentional mishaps open the door to possibilities that beckon to be explored, preventing stagnation or even constraints created by my initial concept.
This practice, and my works in general, are inspired by my appreciation for nature’s beauty and its finite resources. I create Sui Generis multimedia works of art that are comprised of wood and other distinctly Japanese materials from Japan. Primarily I use the rare and scarce natural growth Yamazakura, a mountain cherry. This exotic wood, which has become my trademark, often has unique, one of a kind curvatures that offer a more organic aesthetic. These materials are acquired in an environmentally conscious manner, reclaiming trees that are often cut in the course of construction projects. I do not condone cutting down the lungs of the earth just to make a work of art. There is ample material that can be salvaged in lieu of purposefully cutting down a tree. I also believe in utilizing all parts of the wood—including small pieces and sawdust that I use for smoking meat and fish—so as not to waste anything procured from and provided by nature. In this way, my works become a collaboration with mother earth, where my hands and sensibilities are the tools that breathe new life into the magnificent cherry trees.
In addition to my commitment to sustainability, my endeavor is to bring attention to a relatively new genre that has yet to receive recognition as a proper art form: Functional Sculpture. My passion is creating aesthetically pleasing and simultaneously useful works of art, informed by my own journey. I began creating pieces of art years ago when I had difficulty finding pieces to match the character of my home, a traditional Japanese farm dwelling. In this vein, I create and craft works of art that take advantage of nature’s beauty while also having strong utility and functionality. Far too often, pieces with functionality have been relegated as craft compared to fine art pieces that only serve aesthetic and investment purposes. Functional forms of art, much like my own Functional Sculpture pieces, deserve to be recognized and appreciated as the fine artwork that it is.
I held 28 exhibitions of my work between 1997-2003, almost exclusively on the island of Shikoku, Japan where I maintain a studio and material storage space. I also participated in an artist studio demonstration in August of 2004 with the De Young Museum at the Palace of the Legion of Honor and a couple of my pieces were part of group shows at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco in 2004 and 2011 and at Art Pad San Francisco in 2012.
My current artistic journey centers around a method I invented that renders a particular tree bark semi-transparent. I discovered, by natural progression and pure serendipity, how to effectively reconfigure the cells of the bark of Kouzo; mulberry bush; in order to greatly increase the translucence of the material. This method is exclusive to my works and the end result produces an enchanting appearance akin to stained glass, particularly when lit up as part of my Illuminated Sculpture pieces. The reclaimed Yamazakura in conjunction with the Kouzo I have rendered near transparency makes my work truly Sui Generis. I plan to further explore this special material in the hopes of sharing the natural beauty and the otherworldly effect of my reincarnated works of art with a wider audience.
Gregory J. Smith
Oakland, CA & Kochi, Japan
email@example.com / https://www.galaxistudio.com
Instagram : gsgsboutique
SELF-EMPLOYED Oakland, CA & Kochi, Japan
Artist (freelance) 2004-current
SELF-EMPLOYED Shikoku, Japan
Artist (freelance) 1997-2003
Goat herder Shikoku, Japan
Producer of goat milk products 1991 - 1996
Art Pad SF, 2012
Luggage Store Gallery, November, 2011 (“In the Moment” exhibition & auction)
Luggage Store Gallery, December, 2004 (“Frenzy II” exhibition & auction)
Palace of the Legion of Honor, De Young Museum, August 14th & 21st, 2004 (Artist Studio/ Artist Demo)
Hyato Design Competition, October 2002, Kagoshima, Japan
28 exhibitions in various private galleries in Shikoku, Japan, 1997-2003
photography, carpentry and urban landscaping, interior design, animal husbandry (goat)
concepts: serendipity, natural progression and trial without error
I began working with cherry wood inspired by where I lived, which was a traditional Japanese farm dwelling in rural Shikoku. In the search for creating items to fit the character, architecture and the sensibility of the house, I began my journey to create functional art.
My intent was and still is to create beautiful sculptural pieces that all have as an underlying aspect; utility, it must be useful and appreciated in more ways than one. It must appeal to a variety of senses and of equal importance, must be useful. The next chapter of this journey was creating illuminated sculptural pieces to enhance and add spice and compliment the textiles of a master Japanese weaver’s exhibitions of her works. That’s when I realized creating functional sculptural works of art was my passion.
The occurrence of trial and error is a valid tool of experience, however my experience morphs into my philosophy of “trial without error”, the so-called error part (when an error occurs, most artists start over or discard it), however in my case I can’t do that, the material is very finite and it would be wasteful and my ancestors would disown me for not following our edict of making the most of consuming the least and anything acquired from nature must be used in its entirety, otherwise it is not procured and protecting our natural resources always, actually turns out to be an advantage for me, a door to possibilities that beckon to be explored, keeping it fresh and avoiding could be stagnation or the constraints of you must follow the blueprints. That is precisely why my blueprints remain in pencil until the project is completed, then it is recorded in “Wood”. I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to save these magnificent trees from going to waste. The cherry wood was saved, reclaimed, repurposed and revitalized, if you will, reincarnated and given a new life.
Create the means to allow the wood to be saved, repurposed, and given a new life:
Most if not all my works are a collaboration where my hands & sensibilities are the tools the wood needs to become what it would like to be in this new version of life, transposed and transformed into another form of art….