Image of radioactive green and blue glass orbs lit up in the dark in a museum exhibition by artist Etsuko Ichikawa
2020 | Etsuko Ichikawa: Broken Poems of Fireflies

 May 26, 2020 – March 20, 2021

ABOUT | Imagine fireflies pulsating in the dark on a humid summer night—serene, undulating points of light over fields and creeks of a verdant countryside. In contrast to this soothing peace, the firefly’s emanating green light reminds one of glowing uranium, producing a mixture of beauty and fear. 

Tokyo-born, Seattle-based artist, Etsuko Ichikawa will channel these seemingly contradictory visions into a new immersive installation commissioned by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU. The exhibition Etsuko Ichikawa: Broken Poems of Fireflies begins within a video gallery featuring a trilogy of films created over the past five years. Equal parts performance documentation and cinematic experience, the videos reveal the dramatic potential of simple gestures made in extraordinary settings. Moving into a second gallery, visitors will encounter a room-sized installation with pulsating glass orbs. These firefly-like forms conjure the artist’s childhood memories, but also through their irradiation, connect us to nuclear histories both far and near.

The devastating Fukushima nuclear meltdown that occurred in Ichikawa‘s home country of Japan in 2011 became the genesis of her recent body of work. During a subsequent visit to southeastern Washington’s Hanford Site the artist learned of vitrification technology aiming to transform 56 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste into glass for permanent storage. These experiences connected many things for Ichikawa; her longstanding work with glass, her Japanese cultural heritage, and her perspective of looking through the lens of America. The exhibition creates visual poetry in our nuclear age, speculating on futures unknown for generations to come.

OPEN GALLERY WITH ETSUKO ICHIKAWA: Wed, 9/30, 1:00-4:00 p.m., Museum Galleries

Etsuko Ichikawa is a Tokyo-born, Seattle-based, multi-media artist. Ichikawa graduated from Tokyo Zokei University in Japan in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. She moved to Seattle in 1993 to further her study of fine arts. She worked with Dale Chihuly as a studio assistant for eight years and became independent in 2003.

Ichikawa’s work has been exhibited internationally, including The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Seattle Art Museum, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, and The Ueno Royal Museum in Tokyo. Her work has been represented by fine art galleries in the U.S. and Europe, including Winston Wächter Fine Art in Seattle and New York, Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver, and Turner Carroll Gallery in Santa Fe. In 2020, she was awarded the prestigious Artist Trust Innovator Award for her work with uranium glass.

She has received grants from numerous institutions including the Pollock Krasner Foundation and Americans for the Arts Funding, and her exhibit NACHI was supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work was featured in Crafted: Objects in Flux published by MFA Boston and reviewed in national publications such as Sculpture Magazine, NY Arts Magazine, and Glass Quarterly.

She is a co-founder of Artists for Japan, a Seattle-based grassroots group to support the relief efforts of Great East Japan earthquake and aftermath, and a member of NOddIN, a Tokyo-based collective of filmmakers who are paying attention to various social, political, and environmental issues. To learn more click the link above.

Organized by the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Washington State University and curated by Ryan Hardesty. Funding for this exhibition is provided by the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Endowment and members of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU.

Special thanks to Winston Wachter Fine Art for their representation of artist Etsuko Ichikawa.

LOCATION | The  Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU is located in the Crimson Cube (on Wilson Road across from Martin Stadium and the CUB) on the WSU Pullman campus. For more information please contact the museum at 509-335-1910. The museum is currently open Tuesday through Friday from 1-4 PM, Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM, and closed Sunday and Monday.