Kizuna: Hi Edwin! Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Edwin: After earning a Bachelors in Fine Arts with Honors in Illustration from Art Center College of Design, I have been working in the entertainment industry as a storyboard artist, concept designer and visual consultant. More recently, I have had to opportunity to share my upbringing on Maui through my paintings which has exhibited in venues worldwide, including Villa Bottini in Italy, the Museum of Kyoto, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. My monograph entitled"Gathering Whispers" published by Zero+ Publishing has also circulated around the globe. And last year I created my first and second mural as a participant in the street art festival known as POW! WOW! Hawaii and POW! WOW! Long Beach.
Kizuna: How did you get involved in art?
Edwin: My mother taught me to draw simple objects as a kid, and I've been hooked ever since.
Kizuna: What was it like living in Hawaii versus living in California? Personally and
culturally? How does it influence your work?
Edwin: Maui takes time to develop. This is a good thing. Whenever I go home, I know exactly where things are. Things are also similar to how I last left it. You earn time to understand these things and what they mean to the residents. But much like the fast-growing California, these things are quickly vanishing and are being replaced with modern symbols. When you have the opportunity to see the past, you have the opportunity to understand it, and hopefully gain the wisdom to preserve it.
"When you have the opportunity to see the past, you have the opportunity to understand it, and hopefully gain the wisdom to preserve it."
Kizuna: How do you think being Japanese American/Japanese American from Hawaii has shaped who you are and you as an artist?
Edwin: I feel privileged. What I'm able to do as an artist is a direct result of my ancestors' hard work to make life easier for the next generation. So, as a direct result, I value my time. I try my best to squeeze art-making outside of the studio. You will often find me sketching in my sketchbook while waiting in the line at Trader Joes or Marukai.
"What I'm able to do as an artist is a direct result of my ancestors' hard work to make life easier for the next generation. So, as a direct result, I value my time."
Kizuna: Tell us about your artwork, how you create it, and what your mediums are.
Edwin: My work resonates with the echoes of my boyhood in the "slow town" of Wailuku. In my paintings, I recall the sun-struck days of youth, when the world was fresh and magical, While also exploring the eerie folklore indigenous to dark country roads and the boundless depths of the childhood imagination. While structuring my work around the narrative tradition of "talk story" native to the Hawaiian islands, I interweave the uncanny obake tales of my Japanese heritage.
Kizuna: What inspires your artwork?
Edwin: People and their stories.
Kizuna: Tell us what your creative process is when you start an art piece.
Edwin: I often arrive at an idea of an overall complete picture through a flash of insight, or rather possibly something I experience in the present that triggers something relative to my past.
"Richard Hashi, or Mr. Hashi, as I called him, was a well-respected businessman from Wailuku, Maui who once told me to not forget where you came from. Those words stuck with me even though I didn't understand them at the time. Now, those words are etched in every piece of art I produce."
Kizuna: What are your favorite art pieces that you own and why?
Edwin: One of them is a netsuke from a samurai that my mom gifted me. It reminds me that I learned to respect history from her. Another is a black book of artists' sketches that I just got started. This one is special because it includes new and old friends.
Kizuna: What do you hope people feel when they see your art work?
Edwin: I hope it reminds you how special childhood is.
Kizuna: Please tell us where you have had your artwork displayed. How do you feel when your art work is displayed?
Edwin: Galleries and Museums. I'm happy and excited to be back to interacting with the public after being in isolation for months.
Kizuna: What are words of wisdom/advice that you can share to other aspiring Japanese American/Asian American artists?
Edwin: Richard Hashi, or Mr. Hashi, as I called him, was a well-respected businessman from Wailuku, Maui who once told me to not forget where you came from. Those words stuck with me even though I didn't understand them at the time. Now, those words are etched in every piece of art I produce.
We want to again thank Edwin Ushiro for taking the time to let us interview and allowing us to share his story. To learn more about Edwin Ushiro and his work, visit his website at www.mrushiro.com, or follow him on Instagram @edwinushiro.