Colorado Springs artist Margaret Kasahara channels a Japanese aesthetic in continuum with the realities of her American upbringing. The result is smart, fresh work that radiates both contemplative beauty and tart sociological comedy, rendered in basic materials and symbolic pictures — sheets of nori seaweed, cocktail parasols, kokeshi-doll imagery, pop-cultural icons, handmade papers and scattered rice — that reference her cross-cultural milieu.
As a woman of the world, Kasahara also channels a well-rounded and global worldview, which you’ll learn as she answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Margaret Kasahara: Everyday life. I’m inspired by everything from the routine to the remarkable. It is through art that I make meaning of what I experience.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
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My favorite parties are the ones where the atmosphere is relaxing, the food is comforting, and the conversation is soulful and flows like the wine. I feel we live in a particularly tenuous time — a period of many conflicts and concerns. To hear their insights and to foster hope, I would envelop myself in the humanitarian love of my special guests: Malala, an enlightened young agent of change who carries the beacon of progress to a new generation. She inspires me with her courage, passion and vision. Joseph Campbell, a scholar who could contextualize current events through the perspective of history and lend continuity to life’s journey using the expansive language of myth. And Toni Morrison, a storyteller and myth-maker who celebrated the fullness of life. She delved into the human psyche, revealing truth and clarity with her rich and eloquent voice.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
It’s wonderful that everyone is so supportive of each other! In all of my arts interactions, whether in the theater or visual arts, I’ve rarely experienced anything other than warmth and generosity.
How about globally?
The desire to create, to express and to discover is borderless, and although I haven’t had many personal interactions with global creative communities, I imagine that encouragement and enthusiasm are shared in abundance. Art helps bring people together.
What made you pick up a paintbrush in the first place?
Many of the paths I’ve taken in life have been a result of serendipity, and I feel it was art that found me. When I was a child, I was extremely shy and kept to myself, and yet I very much wanted to express myself and share my inner life with others — I just didn’t know how. I was exposed to a variety of the arts while I was growing up and took requisite piano lessons, and I remember drawing a lot and taking art classes, but didn’t find my arts calling until I was about fourteen years old. I happened to catch a PBS presentation of Jean Cocteau’s film, La Belle et la Bête , and was completely taken and mesmerized by the film’s striking beauty and visual presence. The impact of the film moved me to begin to explore my own expression through art. I initially focused on filmmaking, and then was compelled by dance and the theater, which drew me out of my shell and helped me discover the gifts of collaboration. I eventually found my individual voice in visual art.
What’s your dream project?
I’m always most excited about what I’m working on at the moment. My artwork is always growing and evolving, so it’s hard to know what form it will take in the future. However, unique projects have the potential to be catalysts to change and push the language forward. I do think it would be challenging and compelling to somehow bring my interests in performance and visual art together in a multi-dimensional way, though I don’t have anything specific in mind.
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Love it! My family lives here, and the proximity to nature is a must!
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Senga Nengudi. She’s an inspirational gem and a poetic powerhouse.
What’s on your agenda now and in the coming year?
In spite of the pandemic creating a lot of havoc and uncertainty, my work is currently included in two shows which, after a lot of caution and a little delay, are both on view now — Pink Progression: Collaborations, at the Arvada Center, and a solo show, The View From Here, at Michael Warren Contemporary. I’m so grateful that both venues felt confident to mount exhibits during these anxious times, but am saddened, too, that only a fraction of the people who would normally visit exhibition spaces will see the shows due to concerns surrounding the virus. I have another solo show scheduled for September at the Modbo, a Colorado Springs gallery.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
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There are so many amazing artists! Many have deservedly received recognition, but some artists fly under the regional radar. I’m a big admirer of the work of Corey Drieth, who creates exquisite, meditative minimalist paintings on wood panel. I get lost in the intricate and witty narrative embroidery of Rob Watt. And Betty Ross, who, although better known as a theatrical costume designer, is an accomplished abstract painter whose long career crosses decades of commitment and devotion to the craft.
Margaret Kasahara: The View From Here runs through August 22 at Michael Warren Contemporary, 760 Santa Fe Drive
See Margaret Kasahara’s collaboration with Jina Brenneman in the group exhibition Pink Progression: Collaborations, through November 8 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard, Arvada. Reserve free timed-entry tickets in advance online.
Learn more about Margaret Kasahara and her work online.