David Libbey – Staff Photographer

Amidst all this snow, it’s not surprising that some of it made its way into Wilson Commons. But it won’t be melting anytime soon thanks to the artistry of Mayumi Amada, who recently opened her show “Poetic Sentiment” at Hartnett Gallery. Her hand-crocheted snowflakes, created for the space, hung down from the high ceiling visible from the tunnels, peacefully twirling in the air. “Falling in Rochester” (2015) inspires the same emotional response that each of the five works in “Poetic Sentiment” do: it’s a little cold and sad, but there’s still something warm, even comforting about it.

Mayumi Amada was raised in a rural village in Japan and learned needlework from her grandmother. However, in college she studied physical education, and it was not until she travelled to the United States to learn English that she began investigating her artistic passion. She began taking art classes at the University of Minnesota, eventually enrolling there and earning her MFA in 2006. Since then she has shown her work nationally and internationally.

In school, Amada worked almost exclusively in metal, providing her with a sculptural aesthetic that comes out in every piece. Nothing in “Poetic Sentiment” is flat, even “A Blip In Eternity” (2010), a cut out tarp that is hangs from ceiling to floor in the center of Hartnett. What could be a two dimensional wall hanging becomes a three dimensional object viewable from all sides. A light shining on the tarp casts a long shadow, giving it an immense volume that is uncharacteristic of tarps. The light and the doily-inspired cutouts are the warm part of “A Blip In Eternity.” The cold part is the message it bears: “Our life on Earth / A blip in eternity.”

Stapled to the opposite wall are groups of flowers, collectively entitled “Bouquets From Grandmas” (2010). The stems are made from strips of aluminum and the petals from warped plastic egg cartons. With the translucent shadows they project, the bouquets seem ghostly. Indeed, they are they exoskeleton of a once living being—the egg carton’s purpose is defunct without an egg to protect. However, walk past them quickly, or even give one a little puff of air, and they bob up and down, hinting at a spark of life.

Movement is also incorporated into the piece “Floating/Ukiyo” (2010), a rectangle of plastic flowers, each suspended inches from the ground, that eddy in the wind produced by a small electric fan. Amada was inspired by a childhood memory of a flower that had fallen into a shallow pond, casting its shadow on the lakebed in the bright sun. The flowers are made from the bottoms of plastic water bottles, which Amada associates with the growth of actual flowers from water and sunlight. But the use of plastic bottles also brings to mind the blight of pollution.

Despite the small size of “Poetic Sentiment,” it addresses complex themes in both subtle and straightforward ways. Mayumi Amada is eminently concerned with finding what she calls “immortality in mortality.” In one way or another, every piece in the exhibition deals with death. However, each also sends a message of hope.

The use of recycled materials points out that even in death, new meaning can be found in different forms. Other pieces prominently feature the doily patterns that were taught to her by her grandmother, showing that knowledge connects past generations with future descendants. In effect, Amada openly acknowledges that our lives are limited, but proclaims that death is not the end of our story.

“Poetic Sentiment” runs through March 15.

Libbey is a member of the class of 2016.

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