Interview with Sayaka Ganz
Sayaka Ganz was born in Yokohama, Japan and grew up living in Japan, Brazil, and Hong Kong. She taught design and drawing courses at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) and now spends her time pursuing her art.
Using reclaimed plastic household objects as her materials, Sayaka’s recent sculptures depict animals in motion with rich colors and energy. Her recent exhibitions include: “Objects and Spirits” – solo exhibition at the Robert E. Wilson Gallery, Huntington University, Huntington, IN, and “Convergence” – solo exhibition in the Visual Arts Gallery, Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Her sculpture “Ambush” has been installed permanently in the educational wing of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. She recently completed a commission of a series of four marine life sculptures for the Monerey Bay Aquarium in California.
Her work is collected and exhibited in London, Tokyo, Takaoka, Isle of Man, New York, San Francisco, Monterey, Toledo and Fort Wayne.
You lived in many places when you were younger. How do you think your background has changed or influenced your work?
It gave me a strong desire to fit in, and sympathy for those who do not have a place to belong to, and it is an important part of my motivation.
How old were you when you made your first reclaimed piece?
I grew up using my mom’s scrap materials to play with, so counting those I would have been maybe 9 or 10. I made my first reclaimed metal sculpture using scrap metal from the university sculpture department’s scrap pile when I was 23, and I made my first reclaimed plastics piece when I was 30.
I find it fascinating that, at a distance, the objects you use in the piece no longer become a visual factor when you see it as a whole. It is only as you move closer and inspect it more carefully that you begin to see the objects themselves and the complexity of the way the forms work together along with the negative space they create. How hard and how carefully do you choose the objects you use? Do you ever manipulate the shapes of them and what are some of your favorite found objects?
I do select the objects very carefully, I generally do not use anything too geometric in form. I use a heat gun to bend some of my objects, but only about 10% of all the objects I use get altered. Some of the larger items are cut down, such as lawn chairs and anything consisting of several parts screwed together are taken apart. My favorite items are coat hangers, serving forks and hotwheel tracks.
How do you think your work has progressed or changed since when you started?
I am spending more and more time on the armature, underlying metal structure that supports the weight. I’m more concerned about how the sculpture ships and how it comes apart for storage. Visually and aesthetically I’m more interested in the incorporation of lights inside my sculpture, using translucent plastics, and in the exploration of motion rather than the forms of animals themselves.
Are there any pieces that stand out as more special to you than others?
“Emergence”, a pair of black and white horses, is my favorite. The older version that I made in graduate school has sold, and I just completed a new version that I’m very excited about. I also just completed a sculpture of a humpback whale, using LED lights and translucent blue plastics. I generally love every sculpture I’m making, it’s a process that fills me with joy and peace.
What is your favorite part of the creation process?
The part I enjoy the most is when I am working with the plastic objects, attaching them to the armature. This process is very spontaneous and relaxing to me, although it does take a long time and many revisions from start to completion.
Nature plays a lead role in your inspiration. Considering that a lot of your materials are synthetic: Do you feel that by shaping objects into animals and creatures it makes it easier for us to connect with them, considering we are organic life forms?
Yes, definitely. We find it easy to relate to animals because they are so similar to us, and many people are fascinated by artificial intelligence even though those are synthetic, because of the perception of a conscious mind. But when it comes to inanimate synthetic materials, most people are rather indifferent, or even resentful of their existence. We create them for our convenience, and yet we despise them. I feel so sad for these items. I think that if I were a plastic ladle, I’d wish I were a bird instead.
With Shinto beliefs in mind, do you feel that in re-purposing your found objects that you is giving them a new life, like a form of artistic reincarnation?
I think it’s more like a retirement home or orphanage. I don’t really think they’ve died and reincarnated since they are still in the same form that they were created to be.
After spending as much time as you do with your pieces, is it difficult for you to let go of them?
Yes, the pieces that take longer to create are harder to let go. My most recent “Emergence” horses took me 7 months, and I hope to keep them around for a while.
In your up-coming exhibition in Italy, what new and exciting creations can we expect to see?
The new “Emergence” is going to be there, as well as the new whale “Uta”, “Plunge” the flock of penguins diving, “Nova” the yellow phoenix, “Walker” the chocolate lab, and “Feng Shui” the black skimmer (a type of water bird) for animal forms, and there will always be an installation of kinetic chandelier, a collaboration with my friend and kinetic artist Jim Merz.
Why is transmitting a message of hope through your sculptures so important to you?
I want my message to be positive and hopeful. I believe that greatest inspirations come to us when we are inquisitive and playful, that is when I am most creative. There are enough environmental activists out there trying to change people’s behavior through dire messages of disasters to come or speaking to our sense of guilt. My heart is heavy and my hands slow to work when I am working from guilt and sense of duty. My heart sings and my hands dance when I am enjoying my work.
Where can we go to find out more about you and your work?