Yuka Ezoe on her way to her studio
One peak into the colorful world of Yukako Ezoe and you can't help but notice that her home, studio and life is covered in artwork. From friends like 2012 SECA award winner David Wilson, her husband, Naoki Onodera's body of work and her own, there is almost no surface that isn't covered in work from all over the Mission, Bay Area and beyond.
She speaks slowly and pauses often, either to catch herself speaking in Japanese or to revel her laid back Cali disposition. As a Japanese-American who returned back to Japan at an early age and ultimately returned to the States, Yuka has a unique perspective on art that is heavily influenced by both West Coast Latin artists and Japanese pop culture.
With a membership in the badass all-girl moped gang, the Lockits, and her involvement with famed mural group, Precita Eyes, Yuka has her hands deep into the Mission community. We sat down for lunch to interview her about her work.
Precita Eyes Muralists Project at Argonne Elementary School . Directed by Yukako Ezoe & Elaine Chu. Designed and Painted by 88 3rd and 2nd grade students, volunteered by 130 Richmond community members
The bulk of your body of work is with Precita Eyes. What do you do for them?
I am one of a few muralists for Prectia Eyes. We are a NPO located in the Mission district working in mural arts and creative education. I'm also their Education Director so I get to coordinate arts and crafts programs and mural projects for kids.
What is Bahama Kangaroo?
Bahama Kangaroo is basically my jewelry line, a t-shirt line with my husband Naoki and collaboration murals that I do with him. We have done 4 murals together in the past.
How did you come up with the name Bahama Kangaroo?
It's from a record. It is this cool, surfer, wacky disco music. The group is called Bahama and the album name is Kangaroo.
How does your product line Bahama Kangaroo apply to your work as a muralist and artist?
I like making jewelry and it was doing well at craft fairs. The t-shirts and jewelry are a way for people to have our artwork and be able to afford it too.
Layers of Yuka's jewelry
How would you describe your jewelry aesthetic?
Because I'm a collage artist it's more like a collage and I like using nature inspired images and materials. I'm really into making cluster formations that you see in nature, like the barnacle of a whale or a cluster of flowers together. I want it to be organic looking and sometimes use and reuse antique/vintage materials.
We heard you are really into kites?
Yeah. Back when I was in school in Amsterdam I made a textile project of a kite shaped like a popes hat with a radio attached. That's about the power/control of the media and religion and its tendencies of not knowing how much their info is true. Later, I became part of a IATA, the International Association of Tako Age, a Japanese Hamamatsu Kite association. Its bunch of folks from Hamamatu city introducing their kite tradition.
Im just one of the kite nerds. Me and my friend Ryoji Kajikawa got involved because we co-curated a kite show. Then I got invited by Shoko Toma from IATA to co-curate a traveling kite show which end up showing all over Japan, including Tokyo International Forum.
The artist in her studio
You have a variety of different disciplines, like textiles, jewelry making and mural painting. What was your biggest influence as a kid where you thought, "you know what, I think I'm an artist and this is what I want to do."
I grew up with comic books in Japan and their cartoon culture. I was more comfortable with it because of my language barrier. I moved from America to Japan and back to America later on. I felt kinda in limbo and things would get lost in translation, so I was more comfortable with whatever pictorial things that were out there.
When I was in Japan in the 3rd grade, I started a newspaper club called Pico Pico Tenshi. I started drawing this angel character that looked like the Nintendo Kirby. He was the mascot of the newspaper. And other kids had drawn the girls in class as a badass girl gang with fishnets tights, leg hair growing out and whips and capes. I was starred as Ezoe Man.
So you basically started a zine at an early age?
Yeah. it is typical of a Japanese class to start a class newspaper. It is like a big poster or announcement board that would tell you how to clean, this is how to take care of plants or what happened that day.
My art has always been really strong since I was a kid so i kept doing it.
What future projects do you have lined up?
RVCA in the Haight is having a locals-only winter show with 50 different local artists in SF. Opening is Friday, Dec. 20. I have a big show in May with my husband, the week after Jazzfest in New Orleans for a co-operative gallery called The Front. In the Spring too, I'm having a kite making workshop with the IATA at the Berkeley Art Museum. That is a show curated by artist David Wilson.
Check out her past works and future projects on her website and see her lastest pieces of one-of-a-kind jewelry in-store at our Revolver location. Thanks Yuka!