Kana Harada finds inspiration in the joys of life, both small and large. Everything presented at her latest exhibit, Tears of Light, at Koelsch Gallery is an embodiment of her gratitude and joy towards life. Her art, in fact, displays that same youthful zest for living, and include Disney, the Christmas season, picnics, baby peonies, dancing all night and boys.
"I can see. I can walk. I can breathe without any pain," Harada said at an opening reception for the exhibit last Thursday. "I'm so grateful to have life."
The exhibit isarranged in the shape of an ancient Japanese forest, which is where the artist grew up (in Japan, not the forest) before a stint on Long Island, NY and before finally settling in Dallas.
Hanging throughout the woodsy space are trees made of foam, including an intricate black piece aptly entitled "forest." Adjacent to the hanging art lay "dinner for Buddha," "summer," and other white foam flower pieces that juxtaposed their dangling counterparts in a yin and yang duet of complexity and simplicity.
To make her sculptures, Harada hand cut foam paper with scissors and pieced them together with superglue. She then used wiring to give them backbone.
Though Harada is a veteran painter with a professional career spanning 25 years, her works and her personality (she comfortably conversed with the casual crowd in a flowing black top, black tights and clear sandals) portrayed an idealism usually reserved for children who have yet to become world-weary.
On the walls surrounding the trees were the aforementioned watercolor portraits produced through a painstaking process of painting layers and layers of color onto paper then removing the color in desired places with a wet brush.
She said her wall paintings are personifications of spiritual feelings, and upon learning this, it was hard not to get choked up when looking at a picture of Harada's mother, depicted as wisps of white light in a work simply titled "portrait." Another spirit-filled painting, "prayer," sought to capture what happens "when your prayer meets the intention of the heavens."
"It sparks," Harada said.
"Prana," created in the similar style of symmetrical markings embedded into a colored canvas, showcases what Harada believes happens "every time we take one breath."
The paintings mimick the ones done in Kindergarten class years ago, where the artist made early versions of her paintings with crayons, paper and the use of toothpicks. Even before entering grade school, she was an artist, drawing her first piece at age one, and deciding precociously at age four to pursue art full-time.
What makes Harada's collection of works so special is its sense of double-consciousness. Though other artists might have used darker colors and shapes to portray objects in nature and life themes, Harada skillfully and lightheartedly weaves together tangible objects and intangible emotions without losing innocence. Guests left the gallery that night feeling like kids again.
Through July 16 at Koelsch Gallery, 703 Yale. For more information, visit www.koelschgallery.com