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On the blog: Nagase's Journey

October 1, 2013
by Anna Huntington, community arts coordinator for The Sculpture Project

Masayuki Nagase led the Friends of the Journey Museum on a special tour of their own museum on Sunday. As the group of museum supporters strolled, the artist described how the Journey exhibits inspired many of his design elements and themes for Passage of Wind and Water, including the idea that the sculpture would encompass a vast expanse of time.

Nagase said he spent four hours at the museum during his initial visit in August 2012 while touring the Black Hills and Badlands as part of the artist selection process for the sculpture project at Main Street Square.

The artist said his inspiration for specific design elements, such as an ammonite, a messosaur, and an aquifer, began at the Journey.

"The fossil exhibits gave me a lot of food to digest," Nagase explained. "I went home and read more about all the fine details and it came together and gave me a total picture. It was great you could feel the specimens and not have to view them through glass cases."

As a stone sculptor, Nagase said he has always been interested in geology and that he found the Journey's geology exhibit excellent. "The exhibit gave me a chance to see stones and formations that I had read about. I got the idea of how to include the story of geology into my work here."

The artist said that his visit to the Journey's Sioux Indian Museum helped inspire him to research Lakota culture further.

"I learned a lot about the Lakota people and it is striking and shocking, their history. How much change all of the people have undergone here, both the Native people and the settlers," he said "That gave me the idea that I want to use change and transformation as the major theme of my project. The design elements are tools, a means for me to show people the themes of change and the energy of nature which takes us all."

The artist said the Journey exhibits gave him a clear picture of the region's collision of cultures over the past 150 years. "I was really struck by cultural differences between the people who came to find a better life and to make money, versus the Native people who struggled to hold on to their traditional way of life, living completely in nature, and the spiritual barriers that created," he said.

Near the exhibit of primitive tools, Nagase was asked whether he would incorporate more traces of human history into his design. The artist explained that his design continues to evolve.

"I've included suggestions of Lakota people living and hunting, coexisting with all different animals," he said. "As far as including more of the human element, I'm keeping that space open and will work on it over the five years of the project. I might go back and integrate more of those elements."

Nagase said he will not include Lakota symbols in his design. "I want to respect and not misuse the Lakota symbols," he said. "That's why I have excluded those symbols from my design. So I went to more universal, basic elements and a foundation that focused on the beauty and truth of nature, that's what I want to use as the foundation of my design."

The artist concluded by saying he values community engagement with his work. "Art, when you think about it, it doesn't have direct power to change the political world," he said. "But somehow I want people who are involved with this region's history involved with my project. At the end of the project I would like to work with the community people to find something meaningful."

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