Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project

Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project – Social Practice and the Illegal Ivory Trade –
February 11 through June 04, 2017

October 27, 2016, San Francisco, CA – The Museum of Craft and Design is pleased to announce the upcoming exhibition, Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project, organized by the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC). Through a moving installation of life-sized objects made from exotic woods and string, displayed alongside shrine-like forms made from steel and glass, the show makes a compelling case for the preservation of animals in the wild and specifically serves to illustrate the plight of elephants and the illegal ivory trade.

Furniture maker, artist and educator Wendy Maruyama has been creating innovative work for 40 years.  While her early work combined ideologies of feminism and traditional craft objects, her newer work moves beyond the boundaries of traditional studio craft and into the realm of social practice. The wildLIFE Project focuses on the endangerment of elephants, a cause that is very personal to the artist. Maruyama recently took a trip to Kenya and met with wildlife advocates to investigate the dangers of the continued poaching of these magnificent animals. The trip served as a source of inspiration for the artist to create a new body of work and incorporate a strong societal message.

The elephant is memorialized in monumental form in The wildLIFE Project. Towering 8 ft. to 12 ft. in height throughout the exhibition, Maruyama’s monumental elephant heads, with surfaces finished in various grey to brick red earth tones, are constructed from panels of wood and tied together with string.

Complementing Maruyama’s elephant sculptures and adding to the social practice dialogue, is the artist’s adaptation of the Buddhist ritual of honoring the dead and examination of the meanings for the different components of the Buddhist altar or obutsudan. In the context of the exhibition, the central object of reverence or worship (Gohonzon) is the elephant—tortured, killed and driven, almost to extinction, by man. Among the items present on the alter, flowers are used to represent the impermanence of this gentle and majestic animal; a candle is placed on an altar to symbolize unchanging truth; incense is burned as an offering in an attempt to capture the spiritual state in the present moment.

Maruyama has also crafted a wooden reliquary to house large hand-blown glass tusks, symbolizing the preciousness of both the elephant and the ivory for which it is sourced. (Maruyama was an artist-in-residence at Pilchuck Glass School in May, 2013, and worked with professional glass blowers on the creation of these pieces.) In recent years, Maruyama’s work has taken a narrative direction—integrating images and text into shrine-like cabinet forms—creating an additional layer of sensory experience for the viewer.  Her “shrines” are constructed from various woods, steel and glass–raw materials that transfer emotion. Steel is immovable, permanent, and heavy; glass is fragile and opaque when stacked together.

The wildLIFE Project further engages the visitor’s senses through the use of video (sight), incense (smell) and a bronze bell (sound) set to ring throughout the day.


About the Artist
Wendy Maruyama has been a professor of woodworking and furniture design for over 30 years. She is one of the first two women to graduate with a Masters in furniture making from Rochester Institute of Technology. Maruyama has exhibited her work nationally for over four decades, with solo shows in New York City, San Francisco, Scottsdale, Indianapolis, Savannah, and Easthampton. She has exhibited internationally in Tokyo, Seoul and London. Maruyama’s work can also be found in both national and international permanent museum collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, Australia; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte; Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton; Mingei International Museum, San Diego; and the Oakland Museum of California.

Maruyama is a recipient of several prestigious awards, including the California Civil Liberties Public Education Grant, 2010; several National Endowment for the Arts Grants for Visual Artists; the Japan/US Fellowship; and a Fulbright Research Grant to work in the UK.

Organized by: Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Curator: Elizabeth Kozlowski
Exhibition Design: Ted Cohen

Wendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project is organized by Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and curated by Elizabeth Kozlowski. The exhibition is made possible by generous support from the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

MCDWendy Maruyama: The wildLIFE Project
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