Published on January 23rd, 2013 | by Elizabeth Coleman0
Interview with Sculptural Artist Sayaka Ganz
To most people, a spatula is just a spatula. But to sculptural artist Sayaka Ganz, kitchen utensils are discarded orphans who deserve a second life. Drawing upon the Shinto belief that all objects have spirits, Ganz creates impressive animal sculptures using salvaged plastic housewares, breathing life into the objects by discovering how they all fit together.
Her work is quietly powerful, depicting various animals in motion, and beautifully evoking sentiments of longing and harmony. Up close, the individual objects stand apart from one another in a chaotic jumble. But from afar, the plastic objects blend together giving the sculptures immutable intensity.
Ganz collects her material from thrift stores, donations and even dumpsters. She organizes the objects by color into several different bins, and once she has enough of a certain color, she begins the planning process to depict the movement of a specific animal. She studies pictures of the animals from different angles to design the structure and joints, and then welds an armature out of metal for structural support. Only then does she start securing the plastic objects into the armature with wire, placing them together like puzzle pieces to bring her animals to life.
Although she creates sculptures of many different types of animals, her most impressive pieces are her black and white horses, which seem to leap through the wall like equine phantoms. It is hard to believe that these sculptures are created from everyday, ordinary objects such as coat hangers and serving spoons since each of her pieces have such spirit and unassuming ferocity.
By creating beautiful pieces from the discarded material, Ganz helps the objects transcend their origin. She does not condone the use of plastics; instead, she hopes to reduce waste by reanimating these objects into beautiful works of art.
Ganz took a break from preparing for her latest show, “Danze Della Natura”, in Cecina, Italy, to speak to Art Animal about her work.
AA: How has your background influenced your work?
SG: I spent my early childhood in Japan, and was influenced by the Shinto beliefs that all objects have spirits. Nowadays there are more and more disposable items that we forget about. It makes me so sad to see them thrown away. I feel like they are orphans. My work gives these objects new life.
AA: Why do you focus on animals, instead of other natural objects like trees?
SG: I want people to sympathize with the objects, and I feel it’s easier for people to relate to animals. We project our emotions on to them. You look at a dog being mistreated and your heart breaks. Some people feel that way about trees, but it’s definitely stronger with animals. I think people even sympathize more with animals than people sometimes.
AA: You also sculpt mythical creatures, like the Asian dragon. Is there a special significance to the dragon?
SG: Dragons have always been very special to me. I was born in the year of the dragon. It is a very intriguing mystical creature, and very powerful. It is similar to the phoenix, rising from the ashes and defeating gravity. I’ve always been intrigued with flight.
AA: Switching gears here, congrats on your upcoming show in Italy. It seems like most of your work now is either invited shows or private commissions. Was it hard to get work shown when you first started?
SG: Well, it depends on when you think my starting point was. I was making other forms of sculpture before I started working with plastic. By the time I got to plastics, I was used to the rejection. It didn’t seem like a big challenge. I would get in about half the time to shows I applied for. Now, though, I haven’t had to apply to anything in a long time. Opportunities come to me. For many years, that wasn’t the case.
AA: Do you have any advice to young artists just starting out?
SG: Don’t let setbacks keep you from working. The first time you apply to a show is probably the hardest. You have to work through the rejection to desensitize yourself. The rejections get smaller the more you apply just by the sheer volume, and they mean less and less.
AA: How has your work progressed over the years?
SG: My early work was done mostly in metal. It was heavy, mostly sculptural installation pieces, and I couldn’t do any that hung from ceilings because of the weight. I sculpted animals like I do now, but they were motionless animals, or animals just about to walk. They weren’t like my pieces now that feature fast motion. When I first started using plastic, I started experimenting with the objects. Many of the plastic objects I use are linear and streamlined, which is great for motion lines. They almost look like brush strokes on my pieces. The motion lines make my sculptures come alive.
AA: Is it difficult to depict motion?
SG: Well, it is easier to depict speedy motion than slow motion. For example, if a fish is swimming in the water and not swimming very fast, that is very difficult because of the line of motion and the way the water looks around the fish. The fish just looks still. It’s difficult to picture and express. But if there is a clear direction, then it’s clear to me where to put the motion lines.
AA: Most the objects you work with seem to be kitchen utensils. Why is that?
SG: Well, I started with kitchen utensils in graduate school. I was already working with scrap metal, and I randomly picked up a bag of kitchen utensils that I found. They looked like the type of shapes that I used already with the scrap metal, like gardening tools such as trowels. Spatulas and spoons have a similar shape, and work well for streamlining the pieces.
AA: Do you have a favorite object to work with?
SG: I love serving forks and coat hangers!
AA: Up close, you can see the individual plastic objects, but from afar, the pieces really do look like animals. How do you achieve this cohesiveness with the different objects you use?
SG: A lot of what goes into creating that cohesiveness has to do with the direction I place the objects. I work until I find the right fit. I do bend some of the plastic with a heat gun, but I think over all I only alter like 10% of the objects I use. I don’t feel like I need to control each individual object to the point where I am molding everything specifically. When you look at my sculptures, you see the way things fit isn’t really perfect. Some other artists make sculptures with such precision that the connection points are completely seamless. My sculptures don’t do that on purpose. When I align the objects, I see these gaps, and the negative space becomes an interesting visual element. It starts to seem like people working together. Sometimes when we are working together in a group, there are many disagreements, but we can still work towards the same goal. Looking from a distance, sometimes the disagreements don’t matter. I like to think of the way the objects fit together in my sculptures as a metaphor for human connectedness and for life.
For more information about Sayaka Ganz, visit www.sayakaganz.com.