Mitsuteru Ishino specializes in intricately built ceramic vessels and animal figures. He was raised in the creative arts residential school Omi Gakuen—Japan’s longest running organization supporting Disability arts, established in 1946. Educators and artists Kazuo Itoga, Ichiji Tamura and Taro Ikeda were deeply moved by the sheer numbers of disabled orphans wandering the streets unprotected at the end of World War II. They founded a school where the children would not only be cared for and educated but given the opportunity to freely express themselves through the arts.
One of co-founder Itoga’s best known expressions is, “These children are the light of the world.” He was determined that it was important as a society to learn from the perspectives of Disabled people. Ishino graduated many years ago, but he is still welcomed several times throughout the year at Omi Gakuen to work in the studio and fire his ceramics in the kilns.
Dimensions (in): 15.7×7.0×6.9
Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, Shiga
The work is comprised of an ornate, narrow cylindrical-shape with small adornments over its entire surface. The main cylinder appears to be formed by layering a snake of deep reddish-brown clay around and around on top of itself until a tall cylinder is formed. The cylinder’s outside is covered with small, complex shapes and an innumerable number of holes that have been poked through the cylinder’s interior. Many of the shapes resemble faces and bodies. While each of these figures is unique, there are some similarities.
The artist consistently uses a circle for the head and small circles for the eyes. Some of the figures also have a few pieces of clay that appear to be hair on the top of their heads, whereas others, have clay spikes around the entire circumference of the circle like rays on a sun. The bodies of the figures are also circles that have varying numbers of arms and legs attached.