Renowned Japanese artist and professor at Tokyo Zokei University Ayomi Yoshida and 23 of her visiting students presented their beautiful, ephemeral installation in the Perlman Teaching Museum on January 22. During her opening talk, Yoshida discussed her artistic vision for the labor-intensive exhibit, which was finished just forty-five minutes before the opening of the gallery.
Her latest installation at the Perlman is a continuation of her series YEDOENSIS which began in 2008. YEDOENSIS reflects upon the transient qualities of nature and human life, and this theme is the basis for “As Cherry Blossoms Fall”: the on-site, entirely hand-made exhibit that celebrates the spring ritual of cherry blossoms blooming from buds and falling to the ground in the short span of a few days.
On January 6th, Yoshida arrived with two boxes filled with delicate paper petals. It had taken her countless hours of tiring, repetitive work to print hundreds of sheets of blue with different woodblocks in order to create varied, realistic textures, and then punch out over 100,000 petals using a custom die cutter. Her installation is a contemporary combination of this traditional Japanese art and a dystopic memorial from a future in which cherry blossom trees no longer bloom. The cherry blossom petals, although a beautiful soft pink in real life, are tinted blue in the exhibit in order to represent the future effects from man-made acid rain.
For 1200 years, admiring the bloom of the sakura cherry blossom trees has been a hallmark of spring’s arrival in Japan. Global warming, however, has pushed the flowering of cherry trees from April to March, and Yoshida said she wonders if cherry trees can adapt with climate change and human influences upon nature.
She talked about issues that plagued Japan since the beginning of the 9th century, such as large income gaps between classes and social unrest, and said that the cherry tree blooms allow for “enjoyment of a fleeting moment of happiness in the midst of this environment.”
In Japan, cherry blossom trees are widely planted in parks, elementary schools, and around university campuses, and Yoshida’s work represents this ubiquity while also displaying the transience of flowers that flower and fall so quickly. She described how she had grown up admiring the sakura trees every year of her childhood, and how “in that transience, we continue to grow up.” Throughout the entire intricate, painstaking process of putting together the installation, Yoshida says, “It gave us pause to think about the important things in life, and represents a symbol of hope for a better world.”