A Japanese painter who has lived in North Carolina for 23 years brings her vision of the United States to the Clayton Center for December.
Keiko Genka, who was born and grew up in Okinawa, Japan, now lives in Garner and paints in acrylic on home-built, stretched canvas.
She says she likes the wide selection of bright colors offered by acrylics and that they are quick to dry.
“Also, I like the light feel of the finished painting rather than the heavy feel of oil painting.”
A free, meet-the-artists reception for Genka is set for 6-7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in the lobby of The Clayton Center, 111 E. Second St. Light refreshments will be served.
The free exhibit runs Dec. 3-Jan. 2. The center is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Both the reception and exhibition are sponsored by Clayton Visual Arts, Inc.
Genka traces her artist roots to childhood fantasies where her ideal world existed in the cheerful colors and neatly designed architectural landscapes she found in illustrated books about foreign cities.
Her admiration for foreign places was so strong that she now lives outside her homeland of Japan.
Besides her visual attraction to space that she found in those youthful, illustrated books, she finds signage provides curious insights.
“Commercial and road signs can reveal a lot of aspects about a place,” she said, “and somehow visual clutter is very appealing to me. I see energy flowing through it.
“Even though I despise chaotic living myself, I believe my paintings reflect our overloaded contemporary life style.”
Today she said, she is inspired by both the cultures she has lived in.
“It’s always back and forth,” she said.
“Although I now realize the beauty of simplicity and subtlety in my own eastern culture, I still try to capture the excitement I experienced in those western books from my teenage years.
“It’s ironic,” she said. “Now I am inspired by the beauty of Japan.”
Genka came to the U.S. in 1989 to study English as a second language, and after finishing the English courses, she started taking art and design classes.
She took basic design courses at Buffalo State College, N.Y., for a year, then moved to North Carolina, where she took art classes at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in art and design with a concentration in painting from N.C. State University.
While at Wayne Community College, she met an inspiring teacher, Pat Turlington, whose work is extremely detail-oriented and photo-realistic.
Genka said, “The bright colors she used were very uplifting, and she made me realize the discipline I would need to become an artist. I am probably following her style subconsciously.”
Genka is married to a sculptor who nowadays works on kinetic installation, though he was originally trained on wood. He also builds stretchers and frames for her paintings and is an important, but unseen component of her work.
Her parents are still in Okinawa, as are her four sisters.
She has had several solo exhibitions this year, including two in Raleigh, one at PieBird and another at Gallery C.
She also has exhibited at Green Hill Center for N.C. Art in Greensboro and at the N.C. Japan Center in Raleigh.
She has been represented by Gallery C since 2004.