When I first saw Yuh Okano’s silk scarves during an outdoor Chestertown artist market, I was impressed by the unique spectrum of colors in her work. I wanted to know more about her creative process and ascendance as an artist whose work has been collected by the Museum of Modern Art and many international exhibitions.
Turns out, after befriending fellow artist Faith Wilson while attending many of the same art shows, Okano decided last February to make Chestertown her home after 20 years in New York City.
Okano’s residence on High Street is more like a workshop and gallery. The first floor is a fabric dying room and workspace where yards of silk is stretched hammock-like. These are her blank “canvases” that will be painted and dyed with her visions of the natural world.
The second floor is a gallery for her favorite works from the past and new creations for sale. Okano explains that the fascinating small shadow boxes on the wall are fabric concepts from which larger projects may evolve but often stand alone as art in miniature.
Okano says that her childhood in Japan was influenced by her family of artists, including an uncle who was a renowned famous graphic designer. In the early 1980s, her artistic pathway brought her to the US and Rhode Island School of Design.
“To this day, my network of friends from RISDY, and artists I’ve met along the way, have formed a valuable network. We help each other,” she says.
Drawing heavily from the natural world, Okano exhibits a rich and joyful chromatic scale offset by creations that lean more toward muted olive and cinnamon earth tones.
From bold to subtle, all on silk or fine wool, her commercial work offers ornate necklaces, flower pins, shawls, and handbags of Devore fabric.
If you visit her gallery, you must see her Shibori Dumpling Bag,
Okano’s fabric art appears in museums and galleries worldwide from Japan and MoMa to Finland and Denmark, and she has taught fabric arts in equally diverse countries.
Scan her website for a full introduction. These few minutes do not do justice to the range of this artist’s work.
This video is approximately 7 minutes in length. To see her prolific range of art, visit her website here.