Interview with Featured Artist: Fonda Yoshimoto

Fonda Yoshimoto is an artist based in Oakland, Ca.

“The quality that we call beauty….must always grow from the realities of life, and our ancestors, forced to live in dark rooms, presently came to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty’s ends.“- Jun’ichiro Tanizaki (1977)

Title of your warehouse show: 10th Street Open Studios

Rae: Can you recall a memory of when you first started making art? How did you start being serious about it?

Fonda: The first memory I have of making is when I was around 4 years old. I made a small house-like structure. I remember carefully collecting spare wood from around the shack my family and I lived in. I knew what I wanted to make and struggled so much with fitting all of the disparate pieces together. I was fascinated by the whole process: the idea, the struggle, and the outcome. I started off like many children do with painting and drawing. My mother always encouraged me to create, although we did not have much money we were always able to find materials to make things with. I started really understanding how serious art is to me in college when I was around 20 years old. I took Art Studio and Art History courses in college and started to realize how powerful art can be, what an incredible form of communication it is. I was able to express my ideas and emotions through art in ways that I could not through words.

Rae: Which cities have you lived in?

Fonda: I have lived in over 30 houses in many different cities. Honolulu, HI; Laguna Beach, Santa Rosa, and Davis, CA; Providence, RI to name a few.

Rae: What do you love most about being an artist in Oakland?

Fonda: I love the range of different venues from professional galleries to coffee shops to improvised spaces. I love how accessible art is, especially with the Oakland Museum, First Fridays, and all of the murals and public art.

Rae: What inspires you to continue making art?

Fonda: Making is a way of thinking. I connect with materials and develop ideas through making. It is also something I share with my ancestors, who were all makers in their own way. They worked hard to support themselves and their families and engaged in art when they could, because the need to create is so strong. My mom once wrote to me, “I am excited for your ability to create and do what you love.” Her words inspire me to continue making art.

Rae: Any influential artist that you love and admire?

Fonda: Linda Sormin, Shannon Goff, Ambromovitch, and Eva Hesse.

Rae: When you were studying at UC Davis who was an influential teacher of yours? What did he/she teach you most about?

Fonda: Annabeth Rosen, Professor at UC Davis, was an incredible influence on me and my work. She really did teach me what hard work looks like. She is so dedicated to her work and to her students. She encourages her students to gain inspiration from their own lives, the environment around them, and to work beyond their comfort zone.

Rae: What impressed you most about the art department in UC Davis?

Fonda: The Art Department at UC Davis has incredible faculty who create a supportive yet rigorous environment. In terms of Ceramics, UC Davis is steeped in history. TB9, the ceramics building, has great facilities. We were encouraged to take advantage of the space, and size of the kilns, to make work ranging from small to large.

Rae: You also studied at RISD. How did studying there influence your art making now?

Fonda: At RISD one of the first questions I was asked is ,”why clay?” I started grad school with an interest in working with different materials, but while I was there I was able to learn how to work with wood, metal, textiles, as well as video, and drawing. When I felt like I needed to learn about a new medium or technique I was able to because I had access to classes, facilities, faculty, and other students. I keep that belief that you can learn just about anything with me, I am curious and want to continue learning forever. At RISD I was able to break my own boundaries of what I considered art, as well as what I considered I was capable of. My work expanded into the room or the environment it was in, I began making work that the viewer could see, walk around, and walk through. I am excited about making work that people can connect with visually and physically.

Rae: What is your most favorite medium to work with? Why?

Fonda: My favorite medium to work with is Ceramics, it has such a tactility and versatility. I love working with different types of clay, all having different qualities and personalities. Working with clay is mental, physical, emotional. I just feel really alive when I work with clay, the way the material responds to you, and demands time and attention.

Rae: Is there any artist you want to collaborate with in the future?

Fonda: My studio-mate from grad school, Sarah Gross, and I collaborated on curating a show at RISD. We are currently in discussion about collaborating again.

Rae: Any new upcoming projects you are working on?

Fonda: One of my pieces in the 10th Street Studios show is a knitted piece. I am really excited about the potential of drawing through knitting and am continuing to explore that. My goal is to use the knitted pieces to create a space that people could stand in, and walk through.

Rae: Please tell me about what your artwork, what does it represent for you personally?

Vein is a drawing on translucent rice paper. There are three layers so you can see into the drawing. I am interested in drawing in ways that are physically three-dimensional. The ink lines wind around the page, connecting and clustering in areas.

My work is intuitive and imaginative but is inspired by architecture, objects, and function. I have been exploring mark making and patterning through my work. Drawing with ink on paper and also three-dimensionally with ceramics and textiles. Ornamentation in my work is voracious, constricting and expanding, winding through space and on every surface. Ornamentation can express identity, can mark belonging to a time, space, era, tribe, region or home. The patterning takes over, I make marks out of need, a kind of anxious comfort. The space defines me, caught between creating pattern and scratching, wiping, willing it away. The mark making becomes a palimpsest, layers and layers of history, of motion, are visible. There is a psychological tension in this process, it also becomes a ritual. I see my work as somewhere between a dream and a nightmare, inside and outside, here and there, healthy and unhealthy,
engineered and makeshift, safe and dangerous, sheltering and eerie.

Rae: Describe your process for creating a new piece and what sorts of materials you prefer to use?

Fonda: I always start a new piece with a loose sketch or drawing based on an idea, feeling, pattern, or movement. I often start working directly with clay after that, I do not use many tools. When I am working larger I will sketch diagrams, make maquettes, or models. I will work back and forth from the individual components and the plan of how it will all come together. My favorite materials are paper, ink, clay, fabric, cotton cord, old scrap wood, copper wire, and, bricks.

Rae: Any amazing gallery that you love here in the bay area?

Fonda: I am still exploring the area and have a lot to see. I really do love going to the student galleries, especially at CCA. The shows rotate every week, there is an incredible amount of energy and ideas cycling around constantly.

Rae: When are you most creative……time of day?

Fonda: I am most creative in the evening and at night. I tend to do a lot of thinking and sketching during the day but most of the production happens at night.

Rae: Lastly, what type of music or bands are you listening to right now while making your pieces?

Fonda: I have been listening to a lot of Cibo Matto, Boards of Canada, and Major Laser.

Rae: Thank you for the interview Fonda!

Check out Fonda website at

Lei is made out of porcelain blossoms, strung with copper wire. The strands hang from the wall, casting shadows, making high pitched sounds as they are pushed together by the breeze.

1 thought on “Interview with Featured Artist: Fonda Yoshimoto

  1. WordsOfAFeather

    “I make marks out of need, a kind of anxious comfort. The space defines me, caught between creating pattern and scratching, wiping, willing it away. The mark making becomes a palimpsest, layers and layers of history, of motion, are visible. ” So beautiful the way she connects with the art she makes. Really wonderful work, I look forward to seeing what she does next.


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