The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Currents

February 28, 2013

Ceramist Mika Negishi Laidlaw taking art in new directions

ST PETER — Get a look now at the McKnight Touring Exhibition on display at the Arts Center of St. Peter — it might be the last you see of the “old” Mika Negishi Laidlaw.

Of course, the ceramist and Minnesota State University art instructor phrased her current artistic inclinations more articulately than that. But make no mistake. 

While recent work has explored the origins and cycles of life, unconditional love and cultural memory in a visual vocabulary marked by graceful, often feminine forms, Negishi Laidlaw said she is beginning to move in a new direction.

She said she arrived at that decision after reviewing the work that sprung from her most recent of three McKnight awards (the last, a $25,000 McKnight Fellowship in 2011). A portion of that work is now on display at the Arts Center of St. Peter, along with selected ceramic works from six other McKnight award recipients.

Three of Negishi Laidlaw’s pieces are included, two from her “Lotus” series and one from her large-scale installation “Circle of Life.” Each bears the delicate form, voluptuous curvature and sensual composition that symbolize reproduction and regeneration in her work. Vibrating with womb’s warmth and ancestral recollection, viewers are beckoned into a sense of calm and contemplation.

But now, Negishi Laidlaw said she is ready to challenge that sense of calm. Criticizing previous work as too symmetrical and delicate, she summarized: “Now, I want to push beyond pretty.”

Much of Negishi Laidlaw’s ceramic sculpture is grounded in a personal exploration of family, love and motherhood.

When she created her “Lotus” series, her grandfather was nearing death. Characterizing the December of his lifetime as unhappy, she created a series of works around the Buddhist symbol of renunciation.

Her “Circle of Life” series was created when she was pregnant with her second child and learned that her grandfather had passed away.

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