This is a continuing series of interviews with the forty-eight artists whose work was selected for the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. The third OBPC exhibition opened on March 23, 2013, and will run through February 23, 2014.
Sequoyah Aono, who participated in our interviews last autumn, was named third prize winner of the 2013 competition.
Q: What is your name, where are you from, where do you live now?
A: I’m Sequoyah Aono, and I was raised and educated in Japan. Since 2008, I have lived in Brooklyn, New York.
Q: What medium(s) do you work with?
A: Mostly wood and stone.
Q: Tell us about your technique/creative process.
A: Mainly I carve three-dimensional figures; my carving process is not like carving surfaces of stones or woods. I regard each lump of material as space, and from that space, I start digging up edges and sides out of images in my mind.
Q: What is your background (education, career, etc.) and how does it contribute to your art?
A: I was born in Naples, Italy, to an American father and a Japanese mother, and raised by my mother in Japan. I have a BFA and an MFA in sculpture from Tokyo University of the Arts. In 2008 I came to New York to broaden my carrier as a sculptor and to find myself and to understand my existence as half American.
Q: Tell us about the piece you submitted to the competition.
A: I often carve myself to find my identity whenever I feel unstable and unsteady. Besides self-portraits, I carve variety of people in New York, all of whom become my alter ego. In order to be sure of myself, to find my values and to record my existence, I keep on carving my alter ego.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: From February 22 to March 8, I will participate in a group exhibition at Nippon Gallery, and in March I have a solo exhibition that will be held at P339 Gallery, both in New York City. In early May, I will participate in a symposium in Turkey, so I’m thinking of what kind of outdoor stone sculpture to carve. I am trying to find other symposia in which to participate or museums to visit in other countries in Europe after Turkey; I am checking summer sculpture events in Europe.
Q: How has your work changed over time?
A: After I moved to New York, I began carving wood more than stone for financial reasons and because of my working environment. I can pick up wood from the park or elsewhere for free and my studio is small. I am adjusting my work according to my present circumstances.
Q: Tell us about a seminal experience you have had has an artist.
A: Before taking the entrance exams for oil painting at art universities, I used to hunt for secondhand books on well-known painters. One day I ran into a famous sculptor’s book and was very impressed by his work. At that moment I switched from painting to sculpture.
Q: Who are your favorite artists?
A: Michael Heizer, Anish Kapoor, William Kentridge, and Novello Finotti.
Q: If you could work with any artist (past or present) who would it be?
A: I would like to work with Novello Finotti and William Kentridge.
Q: What is your favorite artwork?
A: Novello Finotti’s piece Anatomie Vegetali (1990). This three-dimensional stone piece shows great use of materials, and the universality in his work attracts people of all ages, I think. At the same time his piece pushes the possibilities of the materials he uses. He has an innovative imagination.
Q: What inspires you?
A: In order to understand my circumstances, the world, and myself at present, it is inevitable that I carve. I think carving is the media that allows me to stand up for myself, to be alive, and to confirm my existence.