Akio Takamori's Drawings and Sculptures of Men Apologizing

The Great Seattle Artist Reckons with the Election, World History, and Mortality


During my years as an Interdisciplinary Visual Art major at UW, I was lucky enough to have Akio as my Ceramic Handbuilding prof. He was one of the best teachers I had in the art school. He was funny, warm and very supportive of my odd ideas all the while constantly pushing me to realize things more expertly in my work.

I never really got the hang of throwing, but I liked working with clay so I took this course to get more experience with the medium. One project I made was a gift to my parents, a small sculpture of both of them sitting together on a couch, unapologetic representations, mom with a little can of Diet Pepsi, dad with a Native-American t-shirt and his arm across the back of the couch. I worked my ass off on that thing, sculpting their minute personages out of the clay, trying to balance my inability with my desire to make this really capture them as people. I remember him saying, "Don't worry so much. The clay won't let you achieve perfection so don't try to." It was the best advice a young artist could get. I loosened up a lot, and when I was finished I had what I still consider my best 3-D piece of art I ever made. I realize now that my piece was very similar to his work; I didn't know his work at the time, actually. That may have been part of the reason he pushed me so much on it. But he truly taught me something that I've used in my art ever since. I can't say that for many other profs at UW in the early 90s. Many great GREAT grad student teachers including Jeffry Mitchell, but not many good profs. Norman Lundin was a pure piece of shit.

Anyway, I hope somehow that he will see this before he dies. If he doesn't, at least I know someone will know that this man had an impact far beyond his beautiful, quirky work. Thanks, Akio. You will live in me and my children as I guide them in their art. Thank you, so much.
I'm no art expert, but to me, Akio Takamori is one of the icons of contemporary Pacific Northwest art. His work is instantly recognizable and yet always fresh and new. And he's one of the few artists whose work makes me laugh.

Just now I pulled out the collectible book from a recent wonderful show at Tacoma Art Museum, "Creating the New Northwest: Selections from the Herb and Lucy Pruzan Collection." And there on the back cover, sure enough, was a piece (a painting and sculpture of this plaintive blond boy) that you knew could only be a Takamori.

A couple months ago, I stopped by James Harris Gallery to check out some new works by another regional icon, Fay Jones, and there in the back of the space was this massive, 6-foot-tall sculpture of a pre-school boy with a Cheshire cat look on his face. So Takamori. And I thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I had the $45K to burn to buy that? Just to freak people out." And my next thought was, "Where the heck in my place would I put it?"

Just from my own selfish sake, I'm sad to hear he's entering his last lap.

Jen, thanks for allowing comments on this post.
Thank you, Akio. Thank you, Jen.
Thanks for this.