Mayumi Oda: Happy Activist
Artist Mayumi Oda who lives in Kealakekua is represented in major international collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Since 1992, Oda has dedicated herself to a nuclear free world, and she’s showing some of her best work in Hilo now.
“I’m a happy activist.”
Ever heard of such a thing? Artist Mayumi Oda isn’t griping about anything in her work. Called the Matisse of Japan, in Oda’s art, imagine a loosely brushed goddess surfing, a comical daikon five times larger than its cart, gardens and Buddhist imagery abound.
The pieces in her current show relate to the Hindu goddess Sarasvati.
Oda: She’s the goddess of creativity and also she’s compassionate. Compassion and creativity are two ways people can change the world. Without creativity, you can’t change.
Oda’s father was a Zen Buddhist who clued Oda in to the importance of concentration and being present.
Oda has maintained a Zazen meditation practice through her adult life, and Buddhist and other sacred imagery is prominent in her artwork. The wheel of dharma, lotus throne, and especially goddesses are there, with turnips and bok choi, historical figures, fish, dragons, and simply nudes delighting in a garden. I asked, what does mindfulness mean?
Oda: It means being here now.
How do you do that?
Oda: Meditate. Sit. Be quiet. You live in a life of “about.” about what the cellphone tell syou. But actually, you’re just here, breathing.
What is your mind doing?
How do you not think?
Oda: Not to talk, like you’re doing! Just be there, with your heart. Not talking. So I can’t explain to you while I’m talking.
Oda grew up in Japan, and spent years in New England, New York, and California. She chose to settle on Hawai‘i island for a reason.
Oda: It’s not just Hawai‘i, but it’s the place called Kealakekua. Originally it was called Ke ala ke akua, pathway of God. Incredible stars, you can see. Vog is gone, the skies are clear, water is clear, it’s incredible.
Basically I moved here because I love the night, the stars, it really feels like you’re a part of the universe. I love that feeling, I’m a part of a big universe.
Now that’s a great feeling.