Whether they bring good fortune or malevolence, Japanese folklore is filled with strange and supernatural creatures that are collectively known as yokai (妖怪). And for the Clutter Gallery‘s exhibition of the same, three artists were tasked with exploring these monsters, spirits, demons, and gods in sculptural form. Each bringing their unique aesthetic to the concept, the resulting works become inspired by these ghost story beings rather than derivative of them.

Main Window Display for the Yokai Exhibition

Reminiscent of antique Japanese porcelain figurines, the Nure Onna piece by artist Tokyo Jesus (Sayuru Ishiyama) emphasizes the white tone of his sculpture’s smooth form with minimal spots of color and a black doll hair backdrop. While traditionally the nure-onna (濡女, “wet woman”) is depicted in a more serpentine manner, this more feminine rendition emphasizes the creatures ravenous, vampiric bloodlust through not only the heart she carefully clutches and the smear of red near her lips but also the mound of aged skulls her coiled lower half resides upon.
Eimi Takano‘s signature 3⅞ inch tall Donut Baby (2015) sculpture has been reimagined for the exhibition as the Oni Donut. Standing a full foot tall, this piece is perfectly suited as a representation of an oni (鬼), which are typically depicted as gigantic ogre-like creatures with red or blue skin and two long horns growing from their heads. Incorporating these concepts smartly into her cute, confectionary treat-based creature, Takano’s Oni Donut has baby blue icing atop its donut head and two sugary cones affixed atop by dabs of frosting.
For her contribution to the show, Octoplum (Paloma Smith) invoked the image of the ao andon (青行灯, “blue lantern”), an incarnation of mass human terror that manifested at the end of playing hyakumonogatari kaidankai, or the telling of one hundred ghost stories. Conventionally thought to be a blue skinned woman with long black hair, darkened teeth, claw-like fingernails, and demonic horns, Octoplum’s rendition here is quite accurate to the legend, including the decorated kimono adorning her. This roughly 5⅔ inch tall solid clay Ao Andon sculpture is perfectly positioned, appearing as if the creature is emerging from the surface she resides on, its own hair being the portal through which it creeps out of.

Ancillary Window Display for the Yokai Exhibition

After Octoplum completed her original sculpture, as seen in the main window display, she had it 3D scanned and replicas printed in an array of plaster as well as plastic one-of-a-kind versions, two of which were exhibited in the ancillary window. The blue tinted Large (4½ inch tall) version embodied the Ao Andon‘s translated name — blue lantern — perfectly, its glitter infused hair capturing and refracting the light. And the smaller Medium sized (3⅕ inch tall) Red Blossom Head rendition was aptly named, a simple but beautiful flower emerging from its head, adding a natural beauty to this etheral creature of terror. In juxtaposition to these, Eimi Takano’s further Donut Baby evolutions added simple elements to her base design that made them feel like appropriate interpretations of their respective yokai. Adorned with sea shells on the side of its head, Iso Onna (磯女, “coast woman”) is traditionally seen as a dangerous vampire disguised as a beautiful woman, though Takano’s rendition would lure one in with its cuteness rather than attractiveness. And her Koma Chan (Blue Guardian Dog), with its canine ears, is an adaptation of the koma inu (狛犬), or lion-dog in English, which typically protect the entrance or inner shrine of many Japanese Shinto shrines.
Reminiscent of hoax “hybrid” taxidermies like P. T. Barnum‘s Fiji mermaid, Tokyo Jesus doesn’t try to overly blend the sculpted yokai elements into the resin humanoid skull renditions of his Kappa Tengu piece, rather he keeps these elements appearing added and evenly slightly in disarray. Depicting the remains of two popular yokai side-by-side, this work incorporates a kappa (河童, “river child”) with its snapping turtle-like snout and a tengu (天狗, “heavenly dog”) with its unnaturally long nose. The Kappa Tengu is displayed between two of Tokyo Jesus’ expertly executed Gaki (餓鬼, “hungry ghost”) pieces, the artist’s interpretations of spirits which live in horrible torment which he’s been sculpturally exploring since 2014.

Main Wall Displays for the Yokai Exhibition

Tokyo Jesus’ Main Wall Display

In essence, Tokyo Jesus contributed his own yokai creation with the three bloated bodies of his horned, skull headed Oniku, their title derived from the general term oni ku (鬼苦, “ghost”). Lathered with a layer of corpse paint-like white over their fat forms, unique red detailing on each grants insight into them through the loosely written kanji on their bellies: 鬼 for “demon” (oni), 幽 for “phantom” (kasoke), and 骸 for “corpse” (mukuro).
The Gasha Dokuro (餓者髑髏, “starving skeleton”) takes form as a skeletal giant, one which wanders around the countryside at night in search of people to satisfy their grudge against the living. For his two pieces in the exhibition built on this yokai‘s concept, Tokyo Jesus smartly built mounds of victim’s skulls for the giant’s undead head to reside upon, giving it not only a sense of grand scale but vicious intent. Amidst these is the Nurarihyon Gaki piece, its haunting doll eyes lending a twisted sense of life to this otherwise ghostly being.

Eimi Takano’s Main Wall Display

Eimi Takano continues her parade of what could easily be a series of kawaii (or cute) yokai friends, all using her pudgy body sculpts with edible head toppers. Taking the form of a cookie demon, two rice ball beasts, a strawberry cake creature, and the feminine Pink Guardian Dog counterpart to the Koma Chan from the window display, Takano’s contributions provide a perfect contrast to the more horror-themed works they are displayed alongside. Like a visual respite, they prevent the exhibition from being burdened with nothing but the frightening.

Octoplum’s Main Wall Display

Amid the breathtaking detailing on Octoplum’s seven further 3D printed Ao Andon pieces, the two White Light versions are the truly eyecatching works. Presented in pristine white forms, both of these renditions have color changing lights imbedded within them, causing them to emit an eerie glow. And this appearance closely mirrors the conditions just before the ao andon manifested, as during the ghost story telling parties that supposedly summoned this creature, one hundred lit candles were placed inside of blue paper lanterns, with one candle being snuffed out after each story until only the final candle remained, its dim light struggling to fill the room.

Pedestals at the Yokai Exhibition

The 16 inch tall plush bear creature Kamisama (神様), which is the Japanese word for “deity”, melds into the grassy green hillside of its wooden base. Like a true divine force, it watches over tiny depictions of Takano’s characters during their day-to-day life, including two Strawberry Cake Yokai renditions gardening and a Donut Baby visiting a shrine. At its core, this piece seemingly exemplifies a simpler time when work and prayer dominated the hearts and minds of people.
Similar in style to his main window piece, Tokyo Jesus’ Hone Onna (骨女, “bone woman”) is based on a creature that traditionally has not returned for vengeance but rather due to having an undying love. Presented in a twisted interpretation here, she seems to be attempting to literally present her heart to her beloved. Or, perhaps, she has extracted his to ensure his own eternal devotion.
A dango (団子) is a sweet Japanese dumpling, one of the most iconic versions being bocchan dango, which is made of three colored balls. Often served with green tea, which manifests as the kettle in the hand of Eimi Takano’s Dango Yokai, its cuteness is tampered by its disturbingly skewered trinity of heads.
According to a well-known Japanese legend, the blind minstrel Hoichi was a truly gifted musician, so much so that people of all walks of life sought out his performances. One night, a gruff samurai appeared, demanding that Hoichi perform for his lord’s court. Obliging, Hoichi’s presentation garnered him an invitation to return the next night, though he’s ordered to tell no one of this request. Suspicious of where his friend Hoichi is venturing to, the priest of Amidaji Temple has him followed and learns that Hoichi is being tricked to perform for a ghost court in a cemetery. Attempting to protect his friend, the priest paints Hoichi’s body with the kanji characters of the Heart Sutra, which renders all of Hoichi’s body invisible to the samurai ghost. But the priest forgot to adorn his lute playing friend’s ears, which the ghost rips from Hoichi’s head as proof that they had been the only portion of the musician that he could find. Perhaps as an epilogue to this tale, Tokyo Jesus’ Hoichi the Earless is a roughly lifesize humanoid skull that is still decorated with the Heart Sutra. Though it would appear that, in death, Hoichi has finally been reunited with his ears.
Having had its opening reception on Saturday, June 10th from 6-9pm, all works in this exhibition will remain on display until June 30th, 2017 at the gallery’s physical location (163 Main Street, Beacon, NY 12508).

View the gallery’s dedicated page for the exhibition

For more information on Tokyo Jesus:
website | facebook | instagram

For more information on Eimi Takano:
website | facebook | instagram

For more information on Octoplum:
website | facebook | instagram

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