A digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary art history

Watanabe Spiller, Micki

Other Names: 渡辺みぎわ; Migiwa Kei


"My work deals with the depiction of narratives in the form of structures, comprised of two-dimensional images of reliefs, as well as stories told through installations. I often use a book’s structural format as a metaphor for a type of contained space where these narratives are stored. I consider space as a container. A sort of succession of all that is inclusive that is within the limits of the sky to the smallest things like Russian Nestling dolls. I am interested in the nature of space, not the negative voids but rather the defined area that has the possibility to contain. In the past I have created structures to house narratives. Some of the works take the actual form of a book when seen from the outside, but when upon closer inspection, one discovers the interior of the book to be a period room of sorts.

I believe that the success of any tale draws from the author’s passion for their stories, and understandings of the characters involved. My favorite series of tales is Aesop’s Fables. Thought it was first introduced to me in German, second in Japanese and finally in English, the stories are still the same, the morals universal. I have rediscovered children’s books for their simplicity and directness, and they often find their way into my work as metaphors for human characteristics. I like to compare my experience with others who have rewritten their experiences through stories: how Bastian physically gets misplace between the pages in 'The Never Ending Story' as I used to mentally get lost in books. When I wrote about my experiences in Japan, the madness and crowds of the cities, I often compared it to the land which Horton the Elephant finds, in 'Horton Hears a Who'. I was delighted to find that Dr. Seuss was thinking about the same cities when he wrote that tale.

These works draw structural references form the immediate environment as well as my admiration of architects who are constantly aware of the nature surrounding them. In this context, architects such as Tadao Ando and Louis Kahn define my structural vocabulary. The works are fabricated with static materials such as steel, wood, paper, cloth and occasionally the use of a temporal video or audio medium, which I utilize as another sculptural tool. I use these materials to relay my experiences by emphasizing the tactile sensations as symbols of other experiences.

Often I have called myself a builder, other times, a sculptor, yet I feel that my primary position as an artist is as a storyteller. To explain or reveal issues with both visual imagery along with narrative text is what interests me."

Micki Watanabe, Artist Statement, 2001

Gallery of Selected Works