Motoi Yamamoto’s Salt Sculptures


Fast Company
writes that Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto was just in his early 20s when his sister died of brain cancer. To memorialize her, Yamamoto began creating full-scale drawings of her  — in salt.  Then, he began experimenting with other forms, from elaborate labryrinths to floating gardens and forests, all in white. 




Yamamoto spends hundreds of hours creating each of these pieces, building them in the galleries where he’s showing, before waiting for them to fall apart, triggering their destruction with “earthquakes,” or sweeping them into containers, where they are disposed of in the sea.  

Japanese Buddhists have long used salt to purify, but its ritual use is also now a cultural norm. In traditional funerals, salt is also thrown behind before entering the service. But now many shops and restaurants place small mounds of salt outside by the front door to indicate a place has been purified. Anyone watching sumo wrestlers will notice how they ritualistically throw salt every time they enter the ring, cleansing the space before combat. Yamamoto is playing with all the meaning around salt.

Yamamoto’s latest pieces is called Return to the Sea, which seems to be a contemporary take on the ancient Buddhist tradition of creating mandala sand paintings. Like mandalas, amazingly detailed sand paintings that are destroyed upon completion to illustrate the ephemeral nature of life, Yamamoto’s work will come apart at the end and be thrown into the sea. And like Hindu and Buddhist mandalas, the process of making the pieces seems to be as important as the end result. When the Dalai Lama visited D.C. during his Kalachakra event last year, monks worked on the mandala for days on end with thousands watching. In the end, the mandala was swept up and poured into the Potomac River. Yamomoto will have a crowd when he builds his and another for when it’s destroyed.

In early September, Yamamoto’s show will open at the Laband Art Gallery in Los Angeles. During the exhibit, there will be open houses for visitors to come and watch Yamamoto create his work. Then, in the beginning of December, the salt installation will actually be returned to the sea.  

Also worth checking out is this new installation of public art by design firm D.O.T.S. for the annual Beaux Arts Ball in Lexington, Kentucky, called Rainbow Massimal. Great to see interesting public art is available almost everywhere now. 

Image credit: Motoi Yamamoto

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