October 9, 2013
by Anna Huntington, community arts coordinator for The Sculpture Project
Yesterday, Steve Babbitt, the photographer chronicling Masayuki Nagase's work in Rapid City, met students from his Black Hills State University photography class at Passage of Wind and Water. The sculptor introduced the students to his work and his process, demonstrated carving, and took questions.
MN: My main theme is transformation and nature's energy and force that brings ongoing change. My challenge is to translate that into a sculptural vocabulary.
Student: When did you get started as an artist?
MN: From childhood, I have always made things. I studied drawing and painting at the Academy of Fine Art in Tokyo and then worked as an apprentice in stone quarries near there. I learned from the old stone masons. They weren't really artists. I learned sculpture from artists and friends who were sculptors.
Student: Do you listen to music when you work?
MN: To me, the sound of hammering is music. I do listen to the Main Street Square music, some of which goes all the way back to when I was a boy! It can actually affect the rhythm of my hammering.
Student: Can you talk about the preparation you did for the application process?
MN: Before developing my proposal I did a lot of research into the history of the region and I continued that research after I was selected. I worked for a year preparing my design before carving. Reading a lot online and in books and also talking with experts in paleontology, botony and other fields.
Student: Were you surprised by the history you found of the area?
MN: I was struck by the continuous waves of change through time. And, yes, the history of the Native Americans over the last 150 years was surprising to me. It has been a very difficult time.
Student: Is it hard to see people touching your work or kids playing on it?
MN: (Smiles.) No, I like it, actually.
Student: How do you like the weather here, do you like living here?
MN: The weather is very similar to Berkeley. I haven't been here long enough to know what it's like to really live here. But the natural beauty is great. People's appreciation for the natural beauty of the area gave me confidence that I can communicate through my work.
Student: Do you feel drawn to return to your projects after they're completed?
MN: Not really. I don't get attached to the work itself. It's the experience of creating it that I take with me. Memories of those experiences are precious. I don't sign my work. Although in this country there aren't many people working in stone with hand tools, so it is distinctive in that way.
Student: Are there projects you've completed that you are not happy with?
MN: That's a difficult question. It's the opportunity to find new forms of expression that draws me. So you can see it is very honest work. Just hammering and making small changes.