Now that it’s officially spring, it’s a great time to enjoy art in the outdoors. The James A. Michener Art Museum is exhibiting stone sculpture by artist Ayami Aoyama in its Outdoor Sculpture Garden through June 20. Ms. Aoyama’s marble and granite works suggest both figurative forms and the landscape, in a style that is at once minimal and abstract.
Ms. Aoyama credits her Japanese heritage as inspiration for her concept of beauty. “We have a proverb, ‘Eight million gods dwell in everything,’ which means that even objects have their own spirits, like humans…. Feeling nature through a simple action such as carving stone is the crux of my art because it allows me to express thanks to nature for my existence.”
Ms. Aoyama studied painting in her native Japan, but upon moving to the United States she gravitated toward sculpture as a means of expressing her appreciation for the natural world. “My stone sculpture is the accumulation of my life’s work,” she explains, “but it still belongs to nature. The site, the time and the stone become one through my hands and then they have a new history. The relationship between myself and these elements is the essence of my art.”
A sculptor at the Digital Stone Project in Mercerville, Ms. Aoyama came to the United States in 1996, studying at the Art Students League in New York. While there, she became interested in stone carving and her instructor, sculptor Jonathan Shahn, recommended the apprenticeship program at the Johnson Atelier. Mr. Shahn, a Roosevelt resident, is the son of Ben and Bernarda Shahn.
“The Stone Division was a fantastic facility,” says Ms. Ayoama. “The state-of-the-art equipment enabled stone carvers to hammer and chisel away without exhaustive physical strength. Patterns can be programmed into machines that carve the stone, although the fine details are still completed by hand. You can’t find anything like that for sculptors anywhere else,” she says.