MFA Student Captures People’s Memory
SENECA — For the past week, Ayako Abe-Miller has been surrounded by clothes.
These clothes were donated by friends, Clemson University faculty members and students, local donation centers and more, all with the intention to help Abe-Miller with an art project: a sculpture made of textiles.
Every day since Nov. 9, Abe-Miller has occupied the inside of Arts off the Alley in downtown Seneca, where her project is being installed. Through the use of donated textiles, Abe-Miller is exploring and trying to revive individuals’ forgotten memory and feelings from used clothing.
“I am often amazed by the intense feelings that these tattered remnants evoke,” Abe-Miller said.
Abe-Miller is a sculptor and Japanese Sumi (ink) painter and is in her second semester of earning a Master of Fine Arts degree at Clemson. Several of her sculptures are in public and private collections, including a 1,700-pound metal sculpture for the new medical school of the University of South Carolina in Greenville, another large outdoor piece in Spartanburg and even a large sculpture in a gallery in Sofia, Bulgaria. More of her sculptures can be found in Georgia, California, Maryland and Italy. Her Japanese calligraphy has been published in scholarly journals in Japan.
Abe-Miller started collecting clothes in September for her current project.
“I frequently wonder about the destination of an individual memory,” Abe-Miller said. “During our lifetimes, we collect a tremendous amount of memories and information which is stored in our brains. New memories pile up on top, layer by layer, so that the old memories are buried deep inside the brain until someone or something awakens them.”
The textile sculpture will be big enough for people to walk through; it is in a giant spiral-shaped piece made up entirely of clothes. Abe-Miller said the clothes represent an individual’s residue. The use of fabric also emphasizes its importance in South Carolina, once home to a former thriving textile industry that has shifted to foreign countries, she said.
“We can only see the evidence of prosperity by finding abandoned textile buildings in this area,” she said. “Therefore, the fabric of clothes implies a memory in South Carolina.”
She wanted the sculpture to be large enough to walk through because Abe-Miller connects memory with time, and she wants the public to take their time and walk through it.
“I’m quite interested in memory themes — any kind of memory theme, conscious or subconscious,” Abe-Miller said. “My sculptures are always giant. I’m also a welder.”
Abe-Miller’s work is strongly influenced by where she has lived and traveled. She was born in the northern part of Japan and has lived in Tokyo, Australia, Singapore and New York City before coming to South Carolina. She has also traveled extensively in the United States and has been to more than 20 countries. She earned her Associate of Arts degree in English Literature from Toyo University in Tokyo, and her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in sculpture from Converse College.
Despite the lengthy installation Abe-Miller said she loves making giant sculptures.
“It’s always that way,” she said. “It’s kind of a meditation to me.”
After searching to find new space to display public art, Abe-Miller came across the opportunity at Arts off the Alley — an artist co-op that consists of many artists with common goals. The co-op is located at 123 N. Townville St. in downtown Seneca.
Abe-Miller’s sculpture opened Friday.
“I feel more motivated,” she said. “I really want to continue with memory.”
By MONICA KREBER
Originally posted by The Journal on November 16, 2013