1st Place recipient
Akio Takamori was born in Nobeoka, Miyazaki, Japan in 1950. The artist’s work, often autobiographical, has focused in recent years on figurative sculpture. The forms he creates of villagers, school children, shopkeepers and infants have been modeled from memory. Drawing on his childhood in Japan, Takamori creates loose communities of figures that are made up of individual pieces with unique, carefully crafted identities.
Growing up in postwar Japan, Takamori experienced a mélange of cultural influences. The son of a dermatologist who ran a clinic located near a red light district, Takamori was exposed to a wide range of people from an early age. At home, his father’s extensive library of both art and medical texts became a fascination for Takamori, who relished everything from Picasso reproductions to anatomical charts.
Takamori’s interest in the arts persisted into early adulthood and upon his graduation from the University of Tokyo, he apprenticed to a master folk potter at Koishiwara, Kyushu. While learning the craft of industrial ceramics in a factory setting, he saw a traveling exhibition of contemporary ceramic art from Latin America, Canada, and the United States. Blown away by what he describes as the “antiauthoritarian” quality of the work, Takamori began to question his future as an industrial potter. When renowned American ceramist Ken Ferguson visited the pottery, the two had an immediate rapport and Ferguson encouraged Takamori go to the United States and study with him at the Kansas City Art Institute.
In 1974 Takamori made the move to the United States, receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute and later attending Alfred University in New York for his M.F.A.. After working as a resident artist at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana, he moved to Seattle, Washington in 1993, where he took his current teaching position as associate professor of the ceramics department.
Takamori’s evolution as an artist began as he worked with Ferguson to break free of the constraints of industrial pottery and find new ways to express himself in clay. Since those first years at the Kansas City Art Institute his work has changed greatly, but it has always been figurative, based on the human body and expressive of human emotion and sensuality. In recent years the dramatic, overtly sexual imagery of the vessel forms of the 1980’s and early 90’s have given way to quieter, more contemplative sculptural works that reflect Takamori’s ever-evolving relationship to clay.