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Saturday, April 20, 2019
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MFA Student to Meld Digital, Textile at Mass MoCA

Mitsuko Nakagawa. Courtesy photo

Media Art MFA student Mitsuko Nakagawa will spend one or two months this summer in residency at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in North Adams, one of the premiere spaces in the country to develop media art.

But what Nakagawa is most excited about is their loom.

“I try to present textile installations with projection mapping,” Nakagawa explained. Typically, she would create the textile by hand, using wire. “I make some things without using a loom, but it would be nice to have a loom.”

Her recent work involves three-dimensional textile sculptures onto which she projects images, many of which themselves have a fibrous look. Sound is also a crucial component of the installations.

Nakagawa, who graduates in May, is an award-winning textile artist. She ran her own textile studio in Tokyo for 15 years, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, and Time and Interior Design magazines. Her textiles have hung in the lobby of Toyota’s Tokyo showroom.

She has an MFA in textile design from Rochester Institute of Technology. But three years ago, she set out to become a documentary filmmaker, so she enrolled in Emerson’s MFA program in Film and Media Arts.

Her inspiration was the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated much of Japan. She was living in Tokyo when the 9.1 temblor hit, and was deeply affected by the aftermath of the country’s most powerful quake.

As she studied filmmaking in Boston, she gradually came to think that maybe she wasn’t ready to make a documentary feature. She decided instead to express herself through media art.

“I really don’t care if the viewer doesn’t feel an earthquake,” she said of her work. “Maybe it will apply to people who maybe have survived [any] disaster.”

Being a media artist in a program dominated by narrative and documentary filmmakers has some challenges, she said. It’s difficult to get the kind of intense, honest feedback on her work she’s looking for from her classmates, who tend to just tell her how beautiful it looks.

But working amongst filmmakers has made her a better artist in many ways, not least of which is helping her tell the story of her art.

For us media artists, we don’t care about storytelling much, but it’s kind of important to have a kind of storyline within the abstract pieces,” Nakagawa said. “Before I came to Emerson, I think my pieces were more abstract. Right now, I really think about how to put my emotion into the piece and then how to present it so that maybe my audience can see what I was trying to say.”

That skill also comes in handy, she said, when applying for grants, or for residencies like the one at Mass MoCA.

Nakagawa will live and work at Mass MoCA from August 1 to September 4, with a possible extension to October. Through the residency, she will have her own private studio with 24-hour access, housing across the street from the museum, opportunities to meet one-on-one with financial and business coaches, and of course, access to Mass MoCA’s Makers’ Mill and its looms.

In the meantime, she is presenting her work at this year’s New England Graduate Media Symposium, being held Friday, March 23, in the Bright Family Screening Room. And she will be part of an exhibit of Emerson MFA students opening Wednesday, April 25, in the Emerson Urban Arts: Media Art Gallery.