When I was living in New York in 2000, a magazine called Idol (which never launched, but that's another story) interviewed me. John, the editor, wanted the feature to be illustrated with drawings as well as photographs, so one day in June he brought along to my Orchard Street apartment a 22 year-old Japanese girl he'd found selling tiny dolls at the corner of West Broadway and Prince. The girl was quirky, fearless, funny. She made sketches of me in which I'm a mushroom man in a t-shirt that says MOM and a kind of naked homunculus with big feet:
This was Misaki Kawai. In the eight years since then Misaki has done very well. She no longer sells her wares on the street, but shows with galleries like Kenny Schachter and Clementine in New York. She's even had a solo show at The Watarium in Tokyo.
Vice TV -- VBS -- dedicated an episode of their art show Art Talk to Misaki, and her Bushwick apartment looks huge, stocked up with the big, colourful abject-cute paintings she now makes (you can see a selection on her website). As she told Ashley Rawlings, Misaki's aesthetic is based on the idea that "when something looks cute but has a funny or weird aspect to it, I think it’s really special. That kind of cuteness has a very strong character." She also likes anthropomorphised turds, idiotic-looking animals, and fart jokes.
Misaki (an Osaka girl who went to art school in Kyoto) mentions during the Vice show that she's a big fan of an old NHK kids' show called Dekirukana (できるかな), which translates as Let's Make Stuff or Can You Do It. There's almost nothing online about Dekirukana, but here's a clip of the opening and closing titles:
I'm not sure if NHK do anything that cute-funny-weird these days, but if you want to see for yourself, I highly recommend KeyholeTV, an internet TV application which allows you to watch many of the Japanese mainstream TV networks in real time, free. They just released the Mac version last week, and it works really well. Here's a screenshot from a calligraphy special I saw the other day:
Well, it's always good to hear about new shows, but this Saku Saku strikes me as very much just applying puppets and processed voices to the rather stale evening TV formula of scripted (but improv-style) comedians, celeb guests, "laugh pyramids" (ie the boss comedian or host has a group of lower-status, younger comedians who laugh in exaggeratedly loud voices at his jokes, as part of their apprenticeship), etc.
It's not about making stuff or using your imagination. The only thing it trains you to do is appear on one of those comedy variety shows, really. Or be grilled by a boss whose jokes you're obliged to laugh at.
I've stumbled upon her site before. Her work has a Finsterian / Scharfian vibe to it. (When I was there Scharf had taken over an old news kiosk, also I think on Spring, selling his art on the street. I still have some of his refrigerator magnets.)
misaki is too cute she left this note for me at her recent solo show here in toronto
she decided that we should sign each other's books - my boyfriend and i made a book of drawings for her. i just really wanted her to see our doraemon drawing
in hopes that it would prompt her to perform her "kitty robot" routine from the vice interview
misaki very kindly let me take a picture of her and my boyfriend warming their hands at her papier-mâché campfire, and we talked about beat happening with her boyfriend (i have a difficult time imagining her with a boyfriend -she is so child-like! maybe they just hold hands?). it was a very cute night.
p.s. her drawing of you reminds me of this shonen knife song. misaki kawai and shonen knife make a good match:
We grew up in Peru in the late eighties and early nineties watching avidly Dekirukana, known to us as 'Puedo hacerlo yo' (Can I do it?). Noppo was awesome and Gonta was the cutest thing ever, always crazy about food and specially onigiri.