Up in the Air is a collaborative work by Japanese natural dye artist Maki Teshima and Finnish-American
artist-painter Amanda Millet-Sorsa engages in an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural exchange on color
and both artists’ relationship to nature. The paintings and mobile sculptures are made with naturally dyed
textiles and mycelium--all biodegradable materials. The dyes came from areca nuts, avocado pits, carrot tops,
chlorophyllin, indigo, oak galls, madder roots, turmeric…
In our event, the audience is first invited to meditate through a sonic environment soundtrack created by
Mahir Cetiz using sounds from our studios and nature. Meditation has accompanied our creative process often
triggered by the motion and sound of water whether it is the waves at the beach or textiles in a dye bath. After
experiencing the meditation session, the audience views the short film featuring our works as a moveable
outdoor exhibition at Far Rockaway Beach, Queens, NY.
The work orbits around the four seasons and our interpretation of each season’s color and movement. Spring
is reminiscent of pink for cherry blossoms and lush greens of new sprouts combined with the wild upward
motion of a bee. Summer is hot, slow, and yellow like the spices found in Jackson Heights, Queens where
Teshima lives and Millet-Sorsa travels to hear the sound of over 160 languages spoken in this intensely diverse
part of Queens. Fall turns red and brown as the leaves fall down back into the Earth and mushrooms make
themselves known. Then Winter speaks of indigo. The Japanese-Finnish exchange comes to the surface in the
sininen hetki (blue moment) when the sky becomes bright blue during Winter before the sunsets. The
darkness and coldness are enveloped by the silence of the long horizontal icy blue skies with drops of gray and
black. The gestures of the paintings and mobiles move with the seasons and balance with nature. Feeling
oppressed by the Climate Crisis and the damage done to the environment and ourselves, this work seeks to
empower our bodies and spirits whilst connecting to and working with natural materials.
In the imagined physical gallery space, the visitor will find a noren curtain at the entrance revealing the works
in our show. In Japan, a noren is found everywhere at the entrance of many restaurants, shops, and public
baths. Long ago, as one leaves a restaurant, one would wipe one’s fingers on the noren after a meal. The dirty
fingerprinted noren was a symbol of a well-loved restaurant. When exiting our show, you are encouraged to dip
your fingers in natural dyes and wipe your pigmented fingers on the noren before leaving the premises.
This work is made possible in part by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. It was also made possible by support from Finlandia Foundation NY Chapter, Wilk Apiary Inc., and is part of New York Textile Month.
Photos and film were taken by Saori Ichikawa-White
SHIM is an online art gallery based in Bushwick, Brooklyn