Heather Ujiie’s art abounds with colorful mythical creatures and monsters spinning allegorical stories and fairytales.
Ujiie’s large-scale digital prints present a unique blending of the classical and contemporary. Her solo exhibition, titled Heather Ujiie: Fairytales, Monsters and Hybrid Creatures, runs until Jan. 8, 2017.
“Many of the pieces in this exhibition were inspired from a kind of ‘data’ mashing of both western and eastern world history and religion,” Ujiie said. “This past year, I have been fascinated by the northern Renaissance Christian painting by Hieronymus Bosch’s: The Garden of Earthly Delights, as well as Persian and Indian miniature paintings, some of which depict polymorphic gods and demons.”
Ujiie’s textile work is a synthesis of several processes, including hand painting, drawing, stitching, and printing with innovative large-format digital printing.
“I love the visceral quality of paint and material investigations, but I also love technology,” she said. “Digital printing, laser cutting and smart textiles are all tools that interest me in creating more innovative work.”
Conversely, Ujiie said she enjoys sitting in her studio painting with gouache, a heavy, opaque watercolor paint, which produces a less wet-appearing and more strongly colored picture than ordinary watercolor.
“Combining the two methods of working — scanning my hand painted pieces, and then digitally manipulating and printing them on different substrates — is very gratifying,” Ujiie said.
Ujiie’s fascination with the intersection of art and design impelled her to create a one-of-a-kind garment – or perhaps, persona – made almost entirely from paper. She said she wanted to “reference the temporality of our existence in the world, but also to make something beautiful, and almost functional, out of a non-traditional material.
“Thematically, I am also interested in mythic tales of female heroines, who represent both the male and the female in terms of empowerment, beauty and seduction. I wanted this piece to conjure up current notions of what it is to be female, and also suggest a kind of fairytale like creature in an enchanted all white forest,” Ujiie added.
Additionally, Ujiie will lead two programs at HAM this fall. Mask Making with Heather Ujiie will run on Sunday, Oct. 16 from 1 to 4 p.m. for children ages 6 and up with an adult; and Ujiie will offer a lecture and guided tour for adults on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 12:00 noon. For more information, go here.
Ujiie is a full-time Interdisciplinary Assistant professor at Moore College of Art & Design Art & Design in Philadelphia, where she teaches across several disciplines including textile design. Besides appearing previously at HAM, her work has been exhibited at the Racine Art Museum and the prestigious Wind Challenge Award Exhibition at the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial Museum. Her commercial printed textile designs have had numerous clients including The White House private residences for former President George W. and Laura Bush.
Three years ago, Ujiie’s work was featured in “Nature’s Mark: Printing on Fiber,” an exhibition highlighting the work of seven artists.
She hopes this exhibition will pose questions about the nature of our identity in the world, and offer views of “a sacred space.”
“Since my work is a fusion of both art and design, I want my viewer to see the potential of a well-designed object or artifact, and realize it can question notions about the body, our environment, and place,” Ujiie said.
Image credit: Heather Ujiie, Blue Monster (detail), 2016, digital inkjet print on poly canvas, 72 X 260 inches, courtesy of the artist.
Fabrics for several works provided by Verseidag US, Fabric On Demand.com. Many of the images were printed at The Center for Excellence in Surface Imaging at Philadelphia University.