[ 9.22.2016 ] NIHO KOZURU received a MFA from UHM in 2001 specializing in glass and mixed media. A few highlights since include creating an outdoor installation for The Institute of Contemporary Art
Boston, receiving a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship Grant, having work acquired for DeCordova Museum’s permanent collection, and being commissioned to create a large sculpture in response to Song of the Bird by Isamu Noguchi for the Sheldon Museum.
UHM: Niho, What have you been up to and what are you doing at the moment?
NIHO: I have been working as a full-time artist from my studio in the South End neighborhood of Boston. I have continued to create sculptures, often tower-forms, in cast rubber since developing the method during my thesis show at UHM. Over the last 5 years I’ve started to develop a way to use casting techniques to make two dimensional wall-works as well. I dismantle the segments of my towers and use these individual pieces to arrange patterns. Rubber is poured in or around those segments, creating bold positive and negative areas. This is my own process for exploring the balance between negative and positive and color vibration. The result feels like a low relief, a hybrid of 3D and 2D. I’m still figuring out what to call them; poured panels, wallworks, wall objects, mono-cast?
It’s been very exciting to develop this new way of working in new directions and vocabularies. I am always reminded that learning from doing is best and that it is surprises that keep me going in the studio. I am grateful to work with very talented and wonderful studio interns and assistants. My husband Jeff is a designer and illustrator who’s also an integral part in my studio practice.
This Summer has been packed with creating new works for a group show Plastic Imagination at Fitchburg Art Museum, a solo at Miller Yezerski Gallery (Boston), and keeping up with NIHO Candles, my line of beeswax candles that use the same casting techniques as my artwork. The candles are individually poured by hand in my studio using local sources of beeswax.
UHM: Did your time at UH contribute to your practice in anyway?
NIHO: Huge contributions! I arrived to UHM as a glass student and left as a rubber caster. I learned how to use rubber for mold making in a sculpture class and quickly took up the practice in using rubber to create the artwork itself. Later, on the recommendation of Professor Pat Hickman, former head of the Fiber Area, I went to visit the Mission House Museum. I was surprised to learn that the House had been shipped board by board from Boston in 1821. I was utterly stunned by the way it closely resembled the one I grew up in near Boston. I was so inspired my thesis project ended up exploring New England Colonialism in Hawai‘i through the lens of my own personal experiences living in Massachusetts.
The strong political and social awareness of my teachers and advisors helped me understand how “textbook history” is written and told from one point of view. This was a time of awakening to a broader perspective that continues in my outlook toward life and the world. I am truly grateful for that time and value having been able to break my own mold and see myself and the world in a new light.
Pat also pushed me to explore outside of my comfort zone and encouraged me to take a class with Robert Jahnke who was a Rockefeller Fellow at UHM at the time. I also later worked as his studio assistant. He helped me understand the point of view of Polynesian indigenous cultures.
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