Books: Artist finds her style with cartoon cat Margaret Bikman Q: When did you first realized you enjoyed art so much that you wanted to make it your profession? A: There is a Japanese saying: "What you like is what you are best at," and my parents believed in this. So they encouraged me to pursue my interest in painting since I was very young. In high school, I met my art teacher who became my mentor. He helped me shape my own sensibility and perspective on art and life. Q: You were born the year before Hello Kitty first was available on products in Japan. Did you have Hello Kitty or Mickey Mouse merchandise as a child? A: My two sisters and I had lots of Hello Kitty hair ornaments and stationary. Three of us were very possessive of our own "character" goods and sometimes fought over them. I always loved painting and drawing, and the subject matter ranged from princesses to battleships. It wasn't until 1995 when I figured out the techniques to introduce this subject matter in my artwork. Q: How did living in Indonesia influence your artistic expression? BETWEEN THE LINES Artist Maki Tamura speaks on her installation, "Vignette," featuring Hello Kitty, in a talk entitled "Almost Classic: Meow Meow Meow" at 7 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St, in Seattle's Volunteer Park. A: My love of ornaments and decorative patterns in general must have come from seeing lots of beautiful fabric and intricate woodcarvings from Java and Bali. The city of Jakarta, where I grew up, was a chaotic mix of the old and the new, the indigenous and foreign, the rich and the poor. There was a very drastic contrast between the interior and exterior world, the privileged and comforting environment of my home and the tumultuous, dangerous world outside of the house gate. My installation at the SAAM is addressing this kind of drastic contrast between the interior and exterior worlds. Q: Do you enjoy reading fairy tales and fables, Western and non-Western? A: Yes, I still read fairy tales, but not as often as I used to. I am interested in the concept of "the childhood," and how various fairy tales and fables shape our minds through our childhood memories. Power, beauty and morality - these values are taught through stories on a subconscious level at an early age. Q: Tell me about the symbolism in your installations and videos. A: I would like to visualize and question this process of indoctrination in my art. My past installations and videos have focused on the issues of "time," specifically, the time between childhood and adulthood. The scrolls signify never-ending stories with layers of images built over time. Q: What is the appeal of Kitty to girls and young women and film and music celebrities? A: Hello Kitty is the icon of cuteness. It is not much of a surprise that people are drawn to it. Sanrio, the company that markets Hello Kitty, envisions "the social communication business," and it wants people to use Hello Kitty goods to express their friendship and love toward each other. On the other hand, during the 1990s, when dressing up like baby dolls was in fashion, a lot of women all over the world associated Hello Kitty as another symbol of "girl-power." Q: What do you like to do for fun? A: I like to travel a lot, especially in Europe and Southeast Asia. I regard Seattle as my home base, where I can sip the best cups of coffee and unwind.
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