blackbirdonline journalFall 2015  Vol. 14 No. 2

On Kiyomi Iwata’s From Volume to Line
Curator’s Commentary by Caroline Wright

Located just a few city blocks from where the artistic career of Kiyomi Iwata began, the Visual Arts Center of Richmond (VisArts) proudly presented a retrospective exhibition of Iwata’s work from April 10–June 7, 2015. Now an internationally acclaimed fiber artist, Iwata moved to Richmond in 1964 with limited art training and experience. In 1967 she enrolled in a batik dyeing class at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA). That workshop marked the beginning of her extensive exploration of silk as a medium for sculpture and artistic expression.

Kiyomi Iwata, From Volume to Line, installation shot
 Kiyomi Iwata
 From Volume to Line, installation shot
 Visual Arts Center of Richmond

While living in New York from 1971 to 2010, Iwata manipulated silk and metal to create intentionally mysterious containers reminiscent of Japanese furoshiki and the Minimalist cube. Then, on an annual trip to Japan near the same time she retired to Richmond, Iwata discovered kibiso, the coarsely textured first thirty-foot strand of silk a silkworm produces. Iwata immediately recognized its inherent metaphor for the beginning of any new practice or endeavor. Since 2010 she has utilized rough-hewn kibiso to make large, woven sculptures that reflect her personal experience of relocating from New York to Richmond.


Portrait by David Hunter Hale
 Kiyomi Iwata
 Portrait by David Hunter Hale

Our gallery was an appropriate venue for a retrospective of Iwata’s work. VisArts opened its doors as a center devoted to craft and education in 1963, mere months before Iwata took her first class at the VMFA. Over the past fifty years, both Iwata and VisArts have maintained respective commitments to fine craft and to innovative processes. This exhibition celebrated both the full circle of Iwata’s artistic career and the unique studio practices inspired and fueled by her life in Richmond.

Kiyomi Iwata, raw kimiso
 Kiyomi Iwata
 raw kibiso

VisArts expresses its sincere gratitude to Dawn and Stuart Siegel for sponsoring Iwata’s exhibition, to Friends of Fiber Art International for financial support of the show catalog (republished, in part, here in Blackbird), and to the National Endowment for the Arts for funding this exhibition through a prestigious Art Works grant. Our appreciation extends to Robert Barrientes for his masterful installation and to Kiyomi Iwata for sharing the development of her subtle, poignant work which will undoubtedly evolve beyond this exhibition.  end of text

At the time of the show, Caroline Wright was the Director of Exhibition Programming for the Visual Arts Center of Richmond.

Photos by David Hunter Hale