Furry animals, mountains of scrap fabric, and banana-shaped benches: there’s no doubt about it, this is Misaki Kawai’s studio. Welcome to Mount Pom Pom, the imaginary mountain from which nuggets of the artist’s crazy imagination explode like confetti.
“Anything can come out of Mount Pom Pom,” says Misaki in her stained, multicolored painter’s blouse, “just like from my head.”
For the past decade, Misaki Kawai has seduced audiences worldwide with bizarre and beautiful creations, from Sweden to her native country of Japan. On March 14th, the Children’s Museum of the Arts will reintroduce her work to the American public with Love From Mt. Pom Pom, her first New York solo show in five years.
Visitors will discover a giant, long-haired pink dog, the main piece of the show, which comes with a dozen larger-than-life combs. “When people will see them, they’ll immediately know what do do,” explains Misaki, mimicking the grooming of a gigantic, invisible animal.
In memory of her 2002 exhibition, Air Show, there will be a miniature theater performing Hair Show “with puppets and muppets and lots of hairy things,” she says, giggling. Misaki has also made a herd of colorful furniture pieces: hair tables, a serpent workstation, and a long, squashed-breast bench.
“We want to invite the visitors to play and create,” explains Prescott Trudeau, the curator of the exhibition. Love From Mt. Pom Pom continues the CMA’s mission to inspire kids and incite them to make art with activities and workshops.
Visitors will be handed an Arty Party booklet, which they can customize thanks to a pouch full of scrap material. There will also be a costume room and a performance area.
It’s the first time Misaki has had an exhibition in a children’s museum, but it didn’t change her creative process much. “Except," she adds, "I made the furniture lower and the costumes smaller.” She hopes that all the family members who come and see the show will interact with her pieces. “Children get it right away,” she says. “You have to train some adults.”
Misaki says her playful work has been compared to the Japanese manga concept of heta-uma, which translates to “bad technique, good sense,” but her technique is far from being bad. In her ephemeral studio in downtown Manhattan, she’s got bags of meticulously collected materials, from Thai pom-poms to funny hats she found in India, and from Nepalese rice bags to Tibetan ribbons.
Her travels are a source of inspiration. “When I find these things,” explains Misaki, “I just get really excited to make something with them.” Her last destinations include Beijing and Mongolia. “For me, working is like traveling,” says Misaki. “I don’t know where I’m going, but if I just keep moving my hand I will end up somewhere else.”
More about the Children’s Museum of the Arts:
The CMA is the only institution in New York City collecting international children’s artwork, and the only one that focuses on being a place for children to make art. Last year the museum moved into a new 10,000-square-foot space designed by Work Architecture Company, the same firm behind MoMA PS1’s urban farm in 2008. An innovative, color-coded homage to creativity, the new facilities are complete with a bartender dispensing modeling clay at the “clay bar."