My name is Yoskay. Yo is a symbol for the sun but sometimes I find it ironic to have such a name because I’m sometimes a pessimist. I feel like it’s difficult to live up to such a positive symbol of a name. I grew up in Toba, which is a small seaside town on the Pacific side of the main island of Honshu. The population is about 22,000 and is very small. My grandfather was born into a fisherman family but he was entrepreneurial. He opened a small factory where they employed ten to twelve people and members of my family work there. It is a a typical blue collar hard labor kind of work. Since we were little, my dad’s emphasis on us was find a job or get a skill so you don’t have to do what I he does everyday. That kind of sat on my head growing up and plus I had two older brothers and going through the Japanese high school I just didn’t feel interested. Luckily, my mom had good friends in Santa Barbara and my parents allowed me to study abroad for high school. Being the youngest son, they were more open to the idea. They supported my choice of being an artist since day one. They were a bit skeptical in the beginning and they still worry a lot because it’s not the type of job that comes with a 401k, steady pay check, or health benefits. I used to save every show postcard that I was involved with, also magazines, toys, prints, and I would send them a copy to show that I was progressing but I’m getting worse about it now. I was so amazed the first time I opened “Juxtapose” magazine and saw my name that I sent the entire magazine to them for one section on one page to say, “Hey Mom I’m doing something and not just messing around here.” Now my parents have seen what I do on Facebook and they are more comfortable about my career.
It’s really difficult for me to come up with an answer because art can describe so many things. Even if someone had a different opinion, they aren’t wrong because it’s how they are seeing an abstract idea of what art is. There is no definitive concrete answer. Performance art, dance, painting, and sculpture is all art but what it really comes down to is self expression and the journey in the way of pursuing the one thing that you love to do and are interested in doing. Sometimes I paint in a certain way because I think it’s interesting not because I’m trying to make a new scratch in art history. I focus on the progress more than a result sometimes. I think it’s a journey in a way that may take side paths along the way. Art doesn’t mean that every art is a masterpiece. There is bad film and cheesy art so art can be bad, it can be cheesy but it is just someone’s creation from making nothing to something. I think good art is honest art and a good reflection of who created it.
Genre of art: Humor
Lately I enjoy art where I can see humor of the creator. By the time my fourth solo show rolled in, I was struggling with my own work. Every year, I was constantly creating personal work and new themes for each exhibition. It was a really tough for me and I started to realize that I taking myself too seriously and putting my work on the pedestal. I was forgetting the joy of art. Around that time, I started seeing humorous works that made me smile. You don’t have to be serious or make sense with your art. The last big show that I did was called “Jokes on Me … “ which took humor and parody as the main theme. After that show, I was a little bit more relaxed and felt like I don’t have to put too much pressure on myself. I like work that makes that me smile. For example, I saw a piece in a magazine by Yoko Ono called Smile. It was a small white box sitting on a pedestal. The top is open and when you look in, you see the mirror at the bottom and you end up seeing yourself and smiling at yourself. Work like that is great. When people express extreme emotion, it’s really beautiful but every work doesn’t have to be that way. It can be work that just make you smile or feel good. Lillian Porter, Steve Powers, and Richard Jacobs have great senses of humor that put me in a good mood.
On SF & LA:
I moved here when I was 15 just for the sake of a change and challenge. Three years led to college, which ended up being three more years. After that, I moved to San Francisco for about a year, lived by Candlestick stadium for a few months and found out that it’s not really my kind of neighborhood. I moved to Mission district and I felt really at home in that neighborhood. I was going to school part-time, worked as a barista and dishwasher, and the rest of the time I did a lot of painting to create a good body of work to take to galleries and places around SF. For me, it was a little hard to jump into the San Francisco art circle. I felt that it was close knit artist group and I felt like an outsider and couldn’t jump in to the gallery scene. I ended up doing a few shows at coffee shops and around the same time, I started showing in Los Angeles through one of my mentors, David Flores, whom I met him when I interned at a Shorty’s Skateboards in Santa Barbara. I worked there for a semester through a graphic design program and David saw some of my work, he really liked it and invited me to a group show at his boutique that he used to run with his friend, the group show included all the guys from the graphic design department of Shorty’s. There was the first time that I felt that I could do art for a living because that was the first time I sold two or three paintings in one night. It was nice to know that people agreed to value and the time you spent to create something from nothing and it was a really refreshing and encouraging. David Flores got me into art shows in LA and he was showing there for a couple of shows and he introduced me to Beau Bass, who was running a gallery called Project: gallery. I submitted seven paintings to a group show called “project: c-note” where everything was priced as $100 and luckily six or seven of my art sold on the opening or before the opening. I started working with Beau after the c-note show and started having my art in a group shows, and then to two person shows and eventually to my first solo show in 2007. That’s how the progress came and it’s important for me to realize the gradual steps. It wasn’t an overnight thing. I tried to do my best in every single, little group show.
In San Francisco, it was kind of fun running around the city with my portfolio and trying to get someone interested in my work. It didn’t really happen but I really enjoyed it. It felt good to pursue my dream and I’m glad that I got to learn how to push my work as motivation because no one is going to come knock on my door. You need to make people turn into your work and that was a big step that I learned from doing it. I’m not usually the person to push myself on other people so it was kind of unusual to see myself that way. When I was doing coffee shop shows, I made my own flyers and went out on my own to drop them off around the city. I’m not sure how effective it was but I felt like it was something I had to do. Rejection gets easier afterwards. The first one is pretty tough and then you learn that not everyone is going to find your work interesting. Even when you’re selling your artwork and it doesn’t sell on opening night, you just have to show it to the right person. I think the more popular you get, the better chance you have the encounter. I mean in SF no one thought my work was interesting and then I showed it to Beau and now he’s the gallery I primarily show my work at.
One thing I have difficult with is staying with my own pace. There are so many artists that are trying to reach the same place. Some people are running and I end up comparing myself to them. I’m always trying to calm myself down and work hard without comparing myself to how other people are doing. It’s a competitive world and with my personality, it’s hard for me to not compare. Art can be a kind of a struggle for me sometimes.
On Pow Wow Hawaii:
Holy! Pow Wow was so great! There were 30 international artists and every night I was surrounded by so many creative individuals. I couldn’t believe that this is what I’m here to do, enjoy this moment and hanging out with other artists. Everyone was so nice and everyone was trying to help each other. It was a very inspiring environment. I went to Hawaii once with my Jewish host family when I was 19. We did a lot of more touristy things during my first trip and it was fun but this time it was a lot of hanging out with locals, hearing their stories, and learning about Hawaiian culture. We were decorating Kakaako with our art and interns help us out and I liked how community based it was.
There is a book called “Gogo Monsters” and it is one of my favorite manga books that I’ve read in the past couple years.
I like Wes Anderson films a lot. I think he has a personal, specific world that he creates and I enjoy seeing that.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
RHCP is a band i grew to like more after moving to LA. Living in this city helped me to connect with the band more.
I like John Frusciante a lot and the story of him joining the Red Hot Chili Peppers at 19, starting a heroin binge for seven years, and then coming back for the Calfornication album. In a strange way the drug culture with music is kind of romantic and goes together. I grew up in a small town where I never encountered recreational drugs, so I had a strong curiosity about the drug culture. I like the story of RCHP and I think Frusciante is a good musician and his last album was so bizarre and I still really enjoyed it.
Portrait: Emi Uchiki
Work titles from L to R:
carry me away, mixed media painting
wish to meet you one day, public installation, Hong Kong Times Square
untitled, mixed media sculpture
ginga, public mural, Culver City