The Women Create community became familiar with the work of Chiyoko Myose in the fall of 2022 when she was featured in The City Girl Farm’s “When Feathers Come Together” story in WHAT Women Create. When we checked in with Chiyoko to see how she’s been, we learned that the past several months have been a wonderful whirlwind of creativity with exciting public-art projects in Wichita, Kansas, where she lives now, and exhibitions in Japan, her birthplace.
WC: It’s wonderful to reconnect with you! What have you been working on lately?
Chiyoko: I recently worked on a project called The Front Porch with my daughter Sarah as a mother-and-daughter team. It is a placemaking project by Downtown Wichita, a local non-profit corporation that focuses on enhancing the city’s vibrancy. Sarah and I applied for this project as we both have an interest in placemaking and community engagement. We created a deck — an extension of Old Mill Tasty Shop, a popular restaurant located in the center of Wichita’s downtown.
The image that we designed and painted has whimsical abstract celebration shapes and the big number 90, as the restaurant was celebrating its 90th anniversary. On the deck is the seating area with tables and chairs. It has sun-shade sails over the deck, which resemble Wichita’s flag, with a wooden center disc. We also added four decorative Dutch mill paddles, which create kinetic movement.
Thanks to the help of contractors for the carpentry work, we launched our front porch in July 2022, and it has been used actively by people of the community since then.
Recently, thanks to additional funding, we added a Little Free Library on the deck. This “Take a Book. Share a Book.” movement has been a good way to inspire reading and build up the community. We thought: “Why not on our front porch?”
Our chosen design for the door of the little library mimics the storefront of the restaurant. We had a woodcraft worker build the library. Then, we did staining, painting, sealing and added vinyl letters. It was an exciting moment when it was installed on our front porch. It looks so cute in front of the restaurant! The library got filled with books very quickly.
WC: Do you collaborate with your daughter often?
Chiyoko: This is the second time to collaborate with her officially. The first one was the “City Bird Keeper,” which is now installed at a park in southeast Wichita. It was part of a project to commemorate Wichita’s 150th birthday in 2020. We painted on a 10-foot-tall fiberglass replica of the city’s Keeper of the Plains landmark.
We enjoy working together. We complement each other well. Through art making, we learn many things and bond further as a mother and daughter. Each project has become our lifelong memory.
WC: You sometimes use the material from beautiful vintage kimonos in your work. How old are the kimonos typically? And where do you find them?
Chiyoko: I started using vintage kimono for the collaboration with The City Girl Farm in 2022, so it’s still new to me. I found them through an online store. The age of the kimono is sometimes identified by the store, but not always. The obi fabric that I used last time was 90 years old, according to the store’s description.
WC: Since your story came out in WHAT Women Create, you’ve had solo exhibitions in Japan. How did they go?
Chiyoko: In Japan, I showed several small paintings from my “Iridescence” series, and one installation piece, “A Thread X A Thread,” which is an interactive piece that asks viewers to add threads to it, representing the theme of treasuring encounters.
I had three opportunities to exhibit my work. One was in Asuka, Nara. Asuka was an ancient capital of Japan, from the 6th century to the 8th century A.D. The gallery where I had the solo exhibition, GaroAsuka, was a Japanese traditional machiya-style structure with a quiet and dim dark space. It had a mystic feel from the beginning. My installation “A Thread X A Thread” added more spiritual ambience in this space with the effects of light and shadow.
While I was there, I explored the village with a rental bicycle. Asuka village, called “home of the Japanese heart,” has many historic sites, preserved by public foundation’s efforts.
Looking at ruins and old poem inscriptions, I thought back to ancient times. I enjoyed the beautiful fall colors as well. It was an inspirational adventure.
Another solo show was at an art space called Minami Terrace in the center of Tokyo. Tokyo is the current capital, the largest city in Japan; it is sort of the opposite to Asuka. It is a space where many young people and families gather and relax. I often welcome music performances in my work. For this show, a musician from Texas who now lives in Tokyo came and sang some country music songs with her guitar. I was able to feel “American home” on the Japanese soil.
In addition to these two solo exhibitions, I had an opportunity to exhibit my work at one more place, in a skyscraper in Tokyo’s Otemachi district, the rising financial and economic center of Japan. It was for the purpose of community engagement for a group of about 100 people. I was grateful for such an opportunity, where people see a vision of community engagement, connection and beyond through my work.
All three places were quite different in character, but my works looked fully alive in each space. I’m glad many pieces of thread were added to my installation “A Thread X A Thread”; this work has become even more meaningful. I would like to say thank you to those who came to the shows and who helped me. I had a wonderful time in Japan!
WC: What are some goals and projects on the horizon this year?
Chiyoko: My daughter and I would like to finish up The Front Porch Project strong this summer. Also, I would like to make some new work while the memories of Japan are still vivid.