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A World Of Paint And Pattern: Tomo Mori In The Miller Theatre


A small sample of Mori’s work

While you may have too much homework from the first week to get off campus and visit a museum, Bwogger and art lover Gabbie Kloppers brings you a dose of culture right here on campus. Yesterday evening, Gabbie had the opportunity to visit a “Creative Conversation” with visual artist Tomo Mori in the lobby of the Miller Theatre. Here are her thoughts on the art piece and the Harlem-based artist. 

Tomo Mori’s “Creative Conversation” centers around this particular immersive art piece—her ‘Concerto Encircling—which transformed the Miller Theatre lobby into a living piece of art.

I have walked into the Miller Theatre lobby on numerous other occasions, but before last night, it never felt quite like this. Coming through the wide open entering, an immense feeling of lightness filled me as I gazed upon the sponge-stamped and covered walls. Through her cut-and-paint process of creating mosaics, Mori had covered the dark blue walls of the theatre lobby with multi-color sponged impressions, crafting delicate and sweeping patterns. Off to one side of the lobby, a particular design caught my eye: a light greyish section on the southern wall that created the near-perfect impression of cherry blossom trees when viewed. More than anything, I was awestruck by the simple beauty of the work.

Beyond the visually impressive aspects of the display, the work is also unique in its exploration of waxing and waning time. The mosaics and murals are filled with circular and curved shapes, evoking Virginia Woolf’s experimental novel Waves and exploring the cyclic nature of memory. In her ‘Concerto Encircling’, Mori tries to create ‘a journey through memory in time. It comes full circle and goes round and round,’ and in this way, Mori succeeds spectacularly. Harmonious beauty and the ideal of co-existence permeate her artwork.

Despite this beauty and incredible mosaic effect, to a mildly stressed out Columbia sophomore, the calming intention of the ‘Sakura Sanctuary’ and the work as a whole was perhaps not completely effective. However, it was impressive to be able to explore the artwork as well as pick the brain of the artist herself during the reception and talk with artist. Hearing about the techniques Mori used to apply both the painted mosaic and to continue the pattern with transparent vinyl pieces over the doors of Miller Theatre was both informative and gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the mindfulness that went into putting together the piece.

Even if mosaics are not really your ‘thing’ when it comes to art, this sort of exhibition is incredibly important to our experience as Columbia students. The inhabitants, it seems, of the academic ivory tower on 116th don’t often venture beyond the pages of their books, which is a disappointment when art exists so close to Columbia. More than just complementing our studies in Art Humanities, engaging with art, culture, and something more tangible than academic theory forces us to appreciate more of our world and the privilege that Columbia offers us as students. Furthermore, the work of artists such as Mori, who is originally Japanese but is currently Harlem-based, can bring some of the outside in and ensure that our campus remains vibrant, diverse and exciting. As such, if you can take a moment away from your studies, it is worth the time to explore and really consider the piece in the Miller Theatre lobby.

Image via Bwog Staff

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