- PUBLISHED: October 1990
- SUBJECT LISTING: Art History / Asian American Art, Asian American Studies, Pacific Northwest / Art and Culture
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 160 Pages, 9 x 11 in, 185 illus., 160 in color
- ISBN: 9780295970219
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Painter, sculptor, teacher, and internationally renowned fountain designer, George Tsutakawa (1910-97) was one of the treasure of the Pacific Northwest. In his life and his work he achieved a rare synthesis of the traditions of Japan, his parents’ native land, where he lived and went to school for ten years, and those of America, where he was born and to which he returned at the age of seventeen.
Martha Kingsbury draws upon her own and others’ interviews with Tsutakawa to reveal the way his accomplishments have been shaped by, but have also transcended, the influences of his dual cultural heritage. Throughout we hear the artist’s own voice--witty, ironic, passionate, irreverent--the voice of a man possessed of deep convictions and great wisdom. In six chronologically arranged sections, Kingsbury discusses Tsutakawa’s long life and distinguished career, examining his artistic development in two extended periods.
The first period, from the late 1920s into the mid-1950s, encompasses the artist’s early education, growing mastery, and artistic awareness from his student days to beyond World War II. He studied with teachers as divers as Alexander Archipenko, Ambrose Patterson, and Paul Bonifas, and enjoyed the exhilarating company of the e active and talented artists who came to be identifies as the “Northwest School”--among them Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan, Paul Horiuchi, and Kamekichi Tokita. Throughout the Great Depression they painted, talked about art, and socialized long into the night. At this time Tsutakawa thought of himself as a “Sunday painter,” a modern artist in the western tradition, striving for expression of a private personal vision.
By 1956, Tsutakawa--married and settled in his native Seattle--had gained artistic confidence and success as an painter, printmaker, sculptor, and teacher. Two events in that year influence a major shift in his thinking about art. he returned to Japan after an absence of thirty years, to rediscover a deep appreciation of his Japanese heritage. And he read, in a book by William O. Douglas, a description of the ritually stacked rock structures, obos, left by pilgrims at spiritually auspicious sites in the Indian Himalayas. Tsutakawa began to study the organic, almost fortuitously stacked and piled shapes of the obos, compelled by their public nature, the way they combined anonymity with personal meaning. The obos forms (which he was later to see himself on a trek in the foothills of Mt. Everest) inspired a long series of sculpture beginning in 1957, and led Tsutakawa in the 1960s to consider the possibilities of using them in fountains.
In more than sixty fountains designed and built since that time, as well as in the sumi drawings he has produced for many years, Tsutakawa has expressed his beliefs about our relationship with nature. His fountains are not the traditional structures in which jets of water squirt at or out of a sculpture, but ones in which the water’s movement over shapes, its sounds, and its reflected light are indispensable to the concept of the form as a whole.
This profusely illustrated book, published in connection with an exhibition at the Bellevue Art Museum includes an appreciation of the artist’s fountain sculptor written by the Japanese art historian and critic Sumio Kuwabara, professor at the Musashino College of Arts.