Artist Natalie Sakurai developed a fascinating concept that taps into society and our nature as social beings. We spoke with her about her body of work and how this project evolved.
ABI: What is your technique in working with glass, and how would you describe your body of work?
NS: With a technique called kiln-forming, I fuse sheets of glass and glass powders in a kiln. Fusing imagery in the glass is done by adding glass powder (called frit) to the surface before firing. There are different ways to manipulate the frit in order to create an image, and right now I’m primarily using silkscreen. Occasionally, I’ll use a brush or other tools to draw more freely. My current body of work consists mainly of glass, with other media used as needed.
One of the things that drew me to kiln-forming was my desire to create depth by layering imagery. This medium allows me to play with opacity, translucency, and ultimately with light. Many of my 2-dimensional works are 2 to 4 layers of glass fused together. When I glue single sheets of glass together to create 3-dimensional forms, or layer sheets of glass leaving space between them, light can enter and bounce around in a different way, almost lighting the work from the inside.
ABI: What is the message behind your work?
NS: My most recent project examines the link between autism and social media. It began when someone close to me was diagnosed with high functioning autism. In learning as much as I could about it, I found out something interesting: while communication is a major challenge for people on the spectrum, social media helps overcome that challenge. Not needing to look anyone in the eye when sending an email is a huge benefit for someone who finds making eye contact uncomfortable.
I also discovered that our use of social media may be causing the general population to communicate in a more autistic way. We often text instead of talk, are constantly distracted by our devices, and are actually holding eye contact for shorter periods of time. I’m fascinated by the ability of social media to connect us and isolate us at the same time.
ABI: Tell us about your interactive social media series and the response you received.
NS: I proposed the project on Facebook, asking for digital images of eyes in order to investigate the power of eye contact. I received eighteen images (via social media), and began posting my progress on a blog to keep my eye donors informed and part of the conversation. Still, when I showed the work in person for the first time, I wasn’t sure what kind of response to expect. Amazingly, the outpouring of support I received was incredible!
People actually thanked me for making the work, and several thanked me for making them think about something they hadn’t before. Later, I was thrilled when many pieces were juried into national and international shows throughout California and Colorado, with one garnering an honorable mention.
All in all, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, and I’ve learned that the old adage is true: the more personal the work is, the more universal it’s reach.