Miki Yokoyama: Artist + 2020 Not Real Art Grant Recipient
“We have to help each other to share the beauty of each other…”
Not Real Art grant winner, Miki Yokoyama was born in Fukushima, Japan. While she definitely remembers the infamous Daiichi nuclear disaster of 2011, Yokoyama was already living in the U.S. at the time and speaks of a childhood spent in the countryside, surrounded by forest.
Yokoyama says she enjoys living in the states for its freedom of expression for artists. “In Japan, I think it’s hard to be an artist because they have a more conservative policy.” She explains that people appreciate her work more in the U.S. and that she “gets a lot of compliments,” but in Japan, she fears it becomes more about graduate study. “In Japan, they care about, ‘Oh, where did you study’ or ‘Where did you go to graduate school or college?’ They care about those kinds of things, but here, I feel free to express myself. I haven’t studied art. I haven’t graduated from an art university. I’m an outsider.”
“I feel connected to forever on both sides. I’m just a little tiny dot, but I connect to everything.”
When asked if she was born an artist, Yokoyama expands on the question about why we’re born at all and why we’re here. “I thought about myself and about this whole world and why we exist, and I noticed that my body and my soul are not forever. This body is very temporary, but it connects to everything. If I die, my body goes through a chemical change and transforms into dirt, or the air, or the water – the life cycle. My body is like a blink of an eye, it’s very short, maybe less than 100 years. But then also, my body is connected to forever. I feel connected to forever on both sides. I’m just a little tiny dot, but I connect to everything.”
Yokoyama says that for her, making art is a dream-based reality. “I wanted to make something where I can express feelings that I feel very strongly about and then at the same time, I feel like I’m in a dream. I live in the real reality now. We are born, and we die. And it seems like a very long time but if you compare it with the time and history of this the whole universe, it’s very little time.
“I want to make beautiful art, but I want it to come out naturally, like a dance. So usually, when I start to draw, I don’t even think about what I am drawing. I draw very naturally, like floating in the universe.”
On the challenges
Yokoyama shares that one of her biggest challenges as an artist was becoming comfortable working with colors. “I used to only draw with a black pen. I couldn’t express my feeling in colors. I was very comfortable using a black pen. But then one day, I wanted to express in color, but my skill didn’t follow me. It was a big struggle. But now I’m very, very comfortable using colors. I just practiced and practiced and that’s it. I did it by myself. I didn’t go to school or take any classes. I just practiced and somehow I found it.”
When asked about her critical voice and whether or not she’s hard on herself, Yokoyama explains that she starts with the vastness that is the universe and that comparatively, she is nothing, so in turn, nothing can stop her.
“I’m nothing. I’m not a great person. I’m not a perfect person. I am just nothing but a small tiny dot. So since I feel that, then nothing can stop me because I’m nothing. I’m just melting and floating in this world. I’m just a human being. One human being who decided to make art.
“I feel the connection to the universe, to every single matter. You and I, and the table, the tree, grass, building – everything is made out of atoms, and they just chose their form. They transform by chemicals, changing, and then the energy connects to everything. So my artwork is very complicated and intricate as is this whole universe. As is this one earth.”
Connection versus narcissism
“I think, in this in this world, there’s so much narcissism and there’s so many people trying to one-up on the other. There’s so much competition and the ‘look at me, look at me, look at me.’ What they’re saying is so opposite of that. I connected with you and I connected with all the people through the arts. It’s because I noticed that I’m nothing and that’s how I connected with you and other people and other artists. I’m so thankful for these beautiful things…
“That’s the reward for me, to share my art collective with people and then I can connect to the world.”
Yokoyama weighs in on the pandemic, offering up this advice, “We must help each other no matter who you are, or which country you live in. We have to share information with each other and help each other. I see both sides are very sad, and yet this tragedy happened. I’m very sad but also, I see the point is, the world is facing the same problem.”
When she’s not working on her art, Yokoyama spends time with her two children, who like her as a child, “can’t sit still.” Her go-to for relaxation is dancing and music and shares that art and dance are her favorite way to relax. “I go into my own world. Dancing is my juice.”
Yokoyama is currently working on a storybook with a friend. “The story is so beautiful and I am doing the illustrations. The book is for everybody, not only for kids but everybody! I feel really excited to finish it.”
Her most important message
“We have to help each other to share the beauty of each other and understand each other.”