Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stealing beauty

Steel artist Miya Ando Stanoff reflects on culture and ideology

Express Staff Writer

Miya Ando Stanoff stands next to her works on steel ‘canvas’ at the Anne Reed Gallery in Ketchum. Photo by Sabina Dana Plasse

When an artist creates work in steel the process often defines the art, yet for Miya Ando Stanoff grinding, polishing and burning are just on the surface. Stanoff's attraction to steel has been inspired by her cultural heritage of being half-Japanese and half-Russian and the descendent of Bizen sword maker Ando Yoshiro Masakatsu. She grew up bilingual in two distinct cultures: a Buddhist temple in Japan and in the mountains of rural Northern California. In addition, she was raised amongst sword smiths-turned Buddhist priests.

"In my heart I am more cerebral, and I examine the way in which imagery is being used as language and communication," Stanoff said. "With Buddhist images, it's typical that you will still get the message even if you are illiterate or cannot speak the language. I was bilingual but never 100 percent fluent in Japanese or English, and visual communication became more comfortable and interesting to me."

For over ten years Stanoff has been making her works on steel 'canvas' which she creates with finishing techniques involving patinas, solvents and other chemicals to effect the colorization of the steel. She also will use acids to etch and a torch to heat and oxidize the surface of the steel. Through methods of grinding, polishing, burnishing and other sanding techniques, Stanoff often endures a very physical and intense art process, which she considers a practice and meditation.

In her Brooklyn, New York studio located in the artist enclave commonly known as D.U.M.B.O., Stanoff is surrounded by a plethora of creativity and is always inspired by people.

"I have transcended my gender and my color," Stanoff said. "In Japan I am considered very white and don't work with steel. This was something that became a source of inspiration and something I really wanted to do. I love Japan and its culture, but it felt like I was coming from behind. It is empowering when you are accepted. I remember the day I was accepted."

Stanoff works in steel because it is important for her to change the stereotype of a woman working with steel. In addition, the reflective qualities of her serene and smooth surfaces place a viewer in a different type of mirror.

"If you look in a certain way, it's not a message, but I am changing people's perception," Stanoff said. "It's interesting to look how people view themselves."

Stanoff's work is on exhibition at the Anne Reed Gallery in Ketchum.

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