Keiko Ohnuma

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Some artwork from grad school

Artist's statement

Ceramic and mixed media, 9 ft (figure 41 "), 2001

Padre Nostro

Around the period of Sept. 11 I was thinking about how mythical and iconic figures are understood by way of their representational styles.

Ceramic, 11" x 12", 2002

Outside the House Is a Flood Washing Everything Away

From a dream I had when I lived in the plantation shack where I spent my years in graduate school.

stoneware glazed with iron/rutile


I had in mind three simultaneous figures: Osama bin Laden as comic book anti-hero, the bloody Christ of Spanish processional sculpture, and the heroin addict as modern advertising icon.

My own low-fire glazes


It's hard to describe the feeling in this dream: fear, relief, and a sense of inevitability, like here was the truth at last.

Two dioramas, each 6 ft. high, 2004

Grace & Will: An Unnatural History of Hawaii

My MFA thesis show was another attempt to layer meaning by juxtaposing various iconic representational styles familiar to us through advertising and the media, to ironic effect.

Ceramic, about 20" long, 2002

Ares and Aphrodite (How Did She Do It?)

I was exploring the meaning of gesture. Notice there are no sexual organs on display here; the piece is perfectly clean.

Ceramic and mixed media, 40

Listen (The Towers)

I began this piece in early September 2001 as two towers, not knowing what it would turn out to be... until Sept. 11. It was exhibited with the sound of water dripping slowly.

Ceramic, about 14" high, 2003

Toy Tantra

The figures were made from 9" doll molds, which I was advised by an art professor to use, rather than be held back by my want of skills in modeling. This piece was purloined by a gallery owner, who reportedly uses it to serve sashimi.

Ceramic, cold finish, about 16

Island Dehadana
(The Gift)

I was inspired by my sister's research into Buddhist saints who "donate" body parts to unfortunates who have lost theirs.

Oil on canvas, 2005

Self-portrait as Mater Dolorosa

"Mater Dolorosa" is a Catholic icon, the grieving Mary of the Passion, often pictured with seven swords piercing her breast to represent her eternal sorrow.

Ceramic, about 2 ft. high, 2001

The End of History

This much-
maligned piece from grad school days became my claim to fame when it was purchased by the painter Masami Teraoka at a juried exhibition.

ceramic, 18

Ecce Homo: Light of the World

Ah, ceramics! For some reason, this oil lamp shrunk about 50% more in the final firing than the figure, though both were made of the same clay.

Mixed media figure, about 2 ft tall standing


The bodies were surfboard foam, covered in plaster and unfired paper clay, finished with acrylics. I sewed the clothes. The female figure is definitely supposed to look hermaphroditic. A witch in church.

Back of vase reads "Love and War"

Thesis exhibit slideshow

(In situ)

The figures were exhibited inside a 5-ft. papier-mache volcano, set on a bed of sand, visible only through cut-outs in the exterior grooves of the volcano.

(Note the tiny pots at bottom)


I was conceptualizing civilization as corresponding to the sedimentary ages of rock and earth,and wondering what we heard from the towers' height before they fell.

Ceramic, cold finish, 14" high, 2001

Rat and Mr. Sun Have Coffee

Ceramic, cold finish, about 15 " high, 2005

This piece portrays a platonic friendship I had with a professor whose stage was usually Denny's at 2 a.m. (I'm the rat.)

Dreamboat Rodrigo

This vase is a tribute to the Brazilian film star Rodrigo Santoro.



The photo quality is unfortunately very poor, but the interior landscape featured about five different figures sitting, lying or peering over hoodoos, canyons and pinnacles.



The reference may be familiar to those who remember Abu Ghraib. People often ask if the figure is supposed to be Christ, to which I can only respond that he is a "Middle Eastern man."