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Motoko Maio, Japanese, born 1948

Made in Japan, Asia

Heisei Period (1989-2019)


Silk and paper, mounted as a screen

a: 60 1/16 inches × 8 feet 9 1/8 inches (152.5 × 267 cm) b: 48 1/16 inches × 12 feet 1/8 inches (122 × 366 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Howard H. Lewis and an anonymous donor, 2009

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Kotodama (“the soul of language”) is embellished with word-filled fragments of antique paper from books and accounting ledgers and layered scraps of red silk from kimono undergarments over a mulberry paper surface. For Maio Motoko, words have spiritual power: the assembled word fragments, having no meaning themselves, create a visual world of words. The pair of six-fold screens, a traditional functional Japanese form, are a superb example of Motoko’s screen creations. She has said, “Don’t you think that the screen is the material embodiment of Japanese culture? While a flat surface is being created, it is simultaneously three-dimensional. It freely changes shape and transforms space. Light and shadow can be created in the twinkling of an eye. It also communicates the sensitivities of beauty and in a physical form expresses the fleeting, transient nature of life. It is both a painting and an object—a bewitchingly ambivalent form.”