In her 14 years as a scenery artist, Seattle-based Michiko Tanaka has created worlds for others to inhabit or to explore in the form of painted interior backdrops for the theater, opera and museums. But, her own artistic interests have also fanned out in many directions, leading her to far corners of the world, and to artist residencies in six countries. She has studied pottery making with a Japanese master in Tokyo, bamboo furniture craft with artisans in Costa Rica, and plein air painting at a residency in San Miguel de Allende. Religious tableaux were her subject of study in Paris – information she employed in a subsequent residency in Malawi, Africa. Here, in Washington, Tanaka took up a chisel to explore the art of Native American wood carving.
At the moment, the artist finds her creative universe contained within the walls of a computer. She is designing a video installation, MODblog, which will be on view at the diminutive Tollbooth (“The World’s Smallest Gallery”) in downtown Tacoma from July 15 to October 31. Unlike the richly rendered but stationery backgrounds she has created for the theater, the Spaceworks-supported MODblog will offer a visual stream of pop culture iconography.
“I love the easy access that the computer provides for anything that I can think [of] to make,” said Tanaka via e-mail. “The computer is a great place to make renderings for ideas” that may eventually be translated into 3-D objects.
The Tollbooth video will be drawn from a blog she writes for her website. “I post a conceptual art/comic piece weekly. All of the pieces are about some philosophical issue I am grappling with or some observation I have made; in this way it is like a comic. I use computer programs to augment images and create other documents so the format is a little unusual…in this way it is more like conceptual art.”