By Jocelyn Colbert |Staff Writer|
Strolling the halls of the Visual Arts Center is like taking a trip to a museum. There are so many interesting things to view. My favorite part of the art area is the outside workstations for the students.
Here, art students can free their minds and create whatever their hearts desire. Entering the sculpture work area I was greeted by a friendly face, art student Gaston Imai.
Imai is a Graphic Design and Marketing major who also coincides with the Sculpture plan here in the Art Department.
He describes himself as a, “playfully sarcastic, all around good-guy who’s a bit of a smart-ass.”
Imai has been interested and influenced by art since birth. Both of his parents have a degree in art, so it is a continual process in his life.
His parents brought about his interest in art and have always influenced him to express what he was thinking and put it to form.
Growing up in LA during the 80s and 90s, Imai was awed by large wall murals of art and sculptures in the park.
I asked Imai what inspires him to create. “Something deep inside me. I want to be constructive. I just start putting things together. It’s like a constant fire under my butt,” he said.
For Imai, the creative process is organic. He can visualize what he’s doing while he’s working on a piece. “All I need are a few references. I’m working on a skeletal piece, so I’m looking up human anatomy for a visual reference to check myself.”
Being Hispanic and Japanese, Imai is influenced by both cultures, with the Japanese culture being his heaviest influence. “Both cultures are contrasted in my work. The theme of my work is rebirth [and] believe in reincarnation.”
Imai depicts his own personal view of reincarnation through his pieces. “Mexican’s celebrate death and I like that. Death for Japanese people isn’t celebratory, but it still influences me.”
Imai allowed me to enter his mind, describing some of the pieces he had on display in the sculpture studio. His work is eerie, yet captivating and I couldn’t look away.
He is now working on a skeletal piece.
It currently features amazing human anatomy of the spine and rib cage, all of which he’s created by heating metal and steel to conform to the shapes he wants.
What I found fascinating was that Imai doesn’t want to do away with the scrap metal he uses. He loves the fact that one can still see elements of the original scrap he used.
For instance, Imai has finished a couple of bones that will piece together with the skeleton.
Looking at the bones, he pointed out certain bar codes and numbers featured in this piece that he did not melt away from the original scrap.
The bones look like legit human bones, but are constructed through metal and steel. It’s absolutely amazing. “I like that this will be one whole piece, but taken apart, individually, all the pieces can stand alone,” said Imai.
My absolute favorite piece Imai showed me, not apart of his skeletal piece, was his construction of a human arm. It at first shocked me because it looked like something out of a horror film.
The arm was painted to depict a bloody, badly damaged limb. I asked Imai what was the inspiration behind this particular piece. He was quiet and didn’t answer for a while. “This is the most difficult piece to talk about,” he said.
Imai informed me that he is an Iraq War veteran, where he served in the Army from 2002-2007. His rendition of a severely injured limb is his ode to the war. I then felt an incredible sense of sadness scanning from his face to the limb.
He paused for a second and I imagined he has to relive and reflect on the war every time someone asks him about the piece. The arm captured the hurt, the raw emotion of war and in that moment, I developed the most upmost respect for Imai.
Imai’s work is subjective. His professors even find his work to be “creepy.” At first glance his work might be a little eerie, but having him there to explain his work was an incredible experience.
Have you ever been to a museum, gazed upon a piece of someone’s work and pondered, “I wonder what was the inspiration behind this?” I had the opportunity to view an artist’s work and know exactly what that inspiration was.
“My work is just me. I do this because I can, not because I have to. Sometimes I don’t know why I do it, it just happens,” said Imai.