I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me... shapes and ideas so near to me... so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't occurred to me to put them down... -Georgia O'Keefe
The artist has only to remain true to his dream and it will possess his work in such a manner that it will resemble the work of no other man. -Albert Pinkham Ryder
Trip to Okinawa last year brought so many unexpected and surprising perspectives. I had not been there for more than thirty years, it was quite an eye-opening event. First, the humidity was unbearable. Living in much cooler climate, i.e. Washington state, it felt like sauna and made breathing taxing. Though once I’d gotten used to it, its thalassotherapy was definitely a welcoming treat.
There was some stress relieving quality being in the island. When I gazed into the crack of dawn around 4 am, it felt as though time had stopped and caught in the moment of utter beauty of the sun: just peeking out behind still slightly fragmented clouds. That sight was breathtaking and memorable to say the least.
Yukio Kevin Iraha
It was about noon-ish; I was wandering in this abandoned, ready-to-be-demolished, three-story high building. I don’t know how I got there, but I must have been on about the third floor, in a large conference room with large windows. I could see the clear blue sky with the stunning cityscape. Almost all of the windows were shattered and broken glass was all over the floor. As I walked out of the room, I tried to stroll on the fence-less ledge. A strong gust of wind pushed me back to the cooler concrete wall.
Then I thought I heard someone whispering, saying, in Japanese,“Welcome home." I looked around to see if anybody was there, but I saw no one. As I walked down what seemed like an exiting staircase, I was thinking where was I and why was I wandering in this building? The building must have been built around the 1950s or an even earlier period. When I reached the ground floor, I finally realized that this was the school I went to in my elementary school years.
As I was staring at the school, an old man, who appeared to be drunk, approached and asked me if I was familiar with the school. I told him that I was one of the graduates. Then he asked me if I knew so and so; I said I did and was pleasantly surprised with familiarity. He kept on naming names whom I recognized, but at the end, his face turned gloomy. All of those kids died, he said. Apparently one afternoon, when the kids were playing in the school playground, a jumbo-jet sized meteor fell on them, killing every one of them instantly. I uttered some word but didn’t make sense, because I was in state of shock with disbelief.
“Just kidding!” The old man burst into laughter and said what really happened was a giant marshmallow landed on them while they were playing; they decided to eat the darn thing. One of the kids suffered gallbladder disease after eating that and other became diabetic, but managed well with medication. The school is to be demolished because it’s contaminated with high levels of radiation too hazardous for anyone to be in it. Some years ago, a group of political rebels came and took over the school, held forty or so children hostage, trashed, and barricaded the school. They declared their protest against government established educational system. That hostage crisis lasted for three days and ended when tiny aliens came, invading every one of those thugs’ brains, implanting powerful bombs the size of grain of salt. The old man paused for a moment and said when that bombs went off not a single soul had survived its impact.
On my way back home, I was reflecting on that beguiling old man's story but also thinking how memories slip away at times; even the painful events we remember turn into tolerable disturbances. It’s like the turbulence of an airplane ride: only temporary bumps on the road.
I was reflecting on my travel itinerary, over a week long, on the flight back home. I noticed the flight attendants were handing out snacks and drinks. “Would you like a snack and or something to drink?” asked one of the attendants, handing me a package of marshmallows.
I thanked her and took a bite of marshmallow. Just then, in the blink of eye, I warped back inside of the elementary school, standing in that very same conference like room before. Only this time, I wasn’t alone. There was a room full of children, about 10 to 12 years of age. Their eyes were like ravenous wolves and each one of them held a small Swiss knife in their hands. Just then they charged at me. I ran away, but tripped over something, and fell on the floor. Shocked from the impact, I warped back into that airline seat. Looking around, relieved, I thought I must have been very tired from the trip. I closed my eyes, tried to relax and thought to myself that I just had some kind of temporary hallucination. Flight attendants were distributing some refreshment and snacks. One of them asked if I like snack and something to drink as she handed me a package of marshmallows.
-Yukio Kevin Iraha
P.S. Yes, it's a fiction.
On Wednesday, October 30th at 6:30 pm K. breathed their last breath. An advanced form of cancer had metastasized all over K‘s body, and by the time it was known that care was needed, it was too late. K. was someone I’d known for many, many years and even though we had not had contact as often as we should’ve, I’d like to think we were close.
I hear people say in response to grief, “You’ll feel better as time goes by.” Even though there is some truth to that, that lingering feeling of loss never seems to go away. It only takes a certain item or memento to bring back a flood of memories. It gets harder to shake that melancholy off as one gets older. Natural pessimist that I am, my fondest memories are usually vague or not as clear, even if I look at photos of those moments which I shared with K. Maybe I’m trying to block out unfavorable memories, unconsciously. Nevertheless, there is symbolic power in that loss of someone close, or even if the relation was not that close. It’s like the news that some pop icon passed away in recent years. It affects our psyche at some level. It’s the end of an era and it lets us know that it’s time to grow up; stand on our own whether we’re ready or not.
Talking about the loss of loved one doesn’t seem to relieve grief either. It only intensifies the loss and a form of anger comes back. It reveals how helpless and utterly powerless we all are. Grief is like going into a fierce battlefield with only a butter knife in hand. It’s a sure losing battle. Oddly, though, there is the relentless urge to let others know that you’ve been wounded, even though it’s the loved one who no longer with us. When I heard the news, the initial shock dissipated and was soon replaced by the urge to let others know the situation. It’s as if the weight of the burden was too much to carry on my own; I needed to unload it. I am much appreciative to those who have responded kindly to this deeply personal and tragic news.
If I had the chance to ask K. a question, it would be
“Did you have a full life? Did you feel like you had satisfying life? “
Life certainly is not to be taken for granted. I know that sounds cliché, but we ought to live each day as a gift. I’m still very much affected by this news but the consolation of K. passing is that one battle and suffering is over.
When I look up into the skies, I’m thinking things like how and what it would have been like for the Wright brothers’ first airplane flight. What did Amelia Earhart see in the skies which possessed her to become first female aviator in the world? We look up into the skies: some might tell what the weather is going to be like, others would stargaze for leisure.
In general, I’m interested in experiences and stories of how people have lived, throughout different places and times. It fascinates me to think the same stars and skies were gazed at and studied by historical figures like Galileo or Ptolemy.
In this series, images are depicted symbolically like the cave paintings of Lascaux. Images here are used as a form of communication and drawn with chalk on blackboard though they are not intended to convey a message. The drawings were erased after being recorded digitally. Just like sending a message in a bottle, I wanted this process to be temporary and ephemeral.
It's impossible to relive pivotal moments in life and that's why the true form of art, i.e. the beauty of nature, when we recognize them remain only in one's mind. Ageless skies can only exist in memories because our days are numbered, and one day we will carry those memories to our graves.
-Yukio Kevin Iraha
(Disclaimer: Permission to disclose the following information was granted by subject: Mikey. Also do not read this post if you are about to have supper.)
My cat (Mikey) has been sick for last year and half. He has been battling IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and I’ve been informed that there is no cure. He’s 14 years old; if he was human, he could get discount seating on trains, airplanes and bus tickets. He’s never been an outdoor cat, and other than bat at flies on windows, he has never had any actual outdoor contact all his life.
Because of his IBD our household has been on constant alert for possible “accidents.” Even the slightest odor maybe another biohazard incident and so preparedness is number one priority throughout the day. You’ll learn quickly that carpets may not be ideal if you have a pet in the long run anyway. An “accident” can occur from either end. If you hear that ketchup bottle noise, he’s about to throw up. Because he has trouble keeping food down, he’s been losing some weight. Now he’s barely 7 lbs and has become frail. His backbone is so pointy, like a Stegosaurus.
Despite of all that, he’s my comfort. I envy his aloofness. His distant and yet occasionally- attentive manner indicates that he thinks and understands.
When I ask him, “What do you think?” without any context, he stares me back with a gentle purr and then goes back to napping.
Every now and then when escape is needed from my stressful life, I remind myself to be like Mikey, just relax and take the time to rest. To put it in Descartes's terms, for Mikey, life is; “I nap therefore I am.” I don’t know how much of his 9 lives he has spent (and from the look of it, he hasn’t left much) however I will always treasure Life with Mikey.
Oh, no. Mikey!!!!
-Yukio Kevin Iraha
***Article update: Sadly Mikey passed away peacefully last night. 12/25/19. 8:20 PM(PST),
I began noticing nature carefully since moving to a rural part of the country. When I lived in a city, I took nature for granted. I don’t think I ever truly appreciated the beauty of nature.
In this series, I tried to express the transient aspect of nature. Needless to say, the depicted images of tress are symbolic and rhetorical. I intentionally arranged sculptural pieces as “props” and documented them as temporary installations to emphasize impermanency. Two-dimensional works can be seen as either temporary or more permanent depending on the individual beholder.
While trees come in many shapes and sizes, I saw them as a metaphor for different stages in life. Some are at the beginning stage of life, whereas others are at end. Regardless of which stages the tree is in, its characteristics and strengths are no doubt beautiful.
-Yukio Kevin Iraha