If you were born amongst the blossoming cherry trees of Japan where sculpture, ink painting and calligraphy traditions go all the way back to 10th millennium BC, would you ever consider moving to …Bushwick? Well, several Japanese artists did, and we spoke with three of them about their Bushwick beginnings, and about finding home in the neighborhood of pigeon flocks, bodegas, warehouses, and freedom, as they all say. Despite getting mugged here and there, it’s worth it, they say….
Sophia Chizuco has been living in New York since 2000, and Bushwick is the neighborhood she calls her home. In her artistic practice, she creates paper lampshades with eggshell and abstract patterns in delicate colors. When she moved to the neighborhood five years ago, Bushwick was “so dangerous,” she said. She was mugged and her iPhone was stolen. But she still likes it here. “I like Bushwick’s cutting-edge and raw art,” she said. “The art we cannot distinguish from garbage on the street also gives me a free mindset for my work.”
Bushwick’s well-established support system for artists also helps her a lot, she said. Chizuco found a mentor and learned how to apply for competitions and get more chances to exhibit. She is now a mentor to younger artists.
Sonomi Kobayashi, another abstract painter, also said the environment for artists is better in Bushwick than in Japan. She said she feels totally comfortable here. In Japan, an artist’s academic record seems to be considered more important, but here people look at the art itself.
Her background in Japan is far from art: after graduating from college, she worked as a nutritionist. She did not intend to become an artist but went to art school in New York to get a visa and to be able to stay in the U.S. Gradually, showing her work made her recognize that she is an artist. “When my work was sold, I really realized that I can call myself an artist, “ she said.
She moved to Bushwick from Williamsburg in 2010, and one of her paintings even became the Brooklyn Oenology winery’s label in 2013.
When she came to New York, she was asked for directions on the street a lot. “In this country, I don’t need to consider where I am from.” she said. “Here it does not matter where you are from or who you are. She feels borderless.”
She also told us that her objectives in life has changed from living a normal life to finding adventure in New York City. Oh, that mythical feeling of aliveness. None of us are immune to it!
“If you want— the atmosphere here,” says Daisuke Kiyomiya, a sculptor. “It is very comfortable for me.” The phrase ”if you want” includes “being yourself,” and nobody cares what others do, he said.
Even though living expenses in New York are higher than in Tokyo, Kiyomiya supports himself by restoration at museums like the Frick Collection and the Cloisters. He thinks this is how he can continue to live here. “Bushwick is something like immature,” he said. ”Immature has energy. Energy gives me passion somehow.”