Kanako Sasaki Captures Dreamy Isolation in "Wanderlust" at Dina Mitrani Gallery

Kanako Sasaki's Yellow Leotard
Like Alice in Wonderland fallen down the rabbit hole, artist Kanako Sasaki finds herself alone in beautiful spaces. The Japanese artist is often the subject in her photo exhibit "Wanderlust," showing through October 30 at Dina Mitrani Gallery. It's easy to imagine her in pursuit of a talking white rabbit or misled by a smiling cat, but Sasaki says her surreal world of sand dunes and lonely forests stems from an imagination built on Japanese novels, ukiyo-e paintings, and her childhood fears of death. In one image, a young woman appears corpse-like -- face-down and legs sprawled in a grassy meadow. In another, she climbs out of the frame and is captured headless. The highly saturated photos express both serenity and discomfort, as if Sasaki is asking, "Did I finally escape, or am I infinitely lost?

We spoke to Sasaki, who was born in Sendai, Japan and studied photography at the School of Visual Arts, New York and the Royal College of Art in London. She told us about the inspiration behind her eerie photos, how she makes her photos look like traditional woodblock prints, and the impossibility of death in the mind of someone living.

Uniform and Viewing
New Times: The gallery press release mentioned you were inspired by

Japanese novels. How did novels inspire you? Which authors in


Kanako Sasaki: I like reading books in general. When I started this

project, I was into classical love story novels, by authors such as

Soseki Natsume and Kyoka Izumi. I wanted to contain the feelings of

loneliness, isolation, happy, sad, uncomfortable, dreamy, and wish, in a

naïve way. Therefore, the girl might be swinging from the tree, trying

to float. The girl had to lie down to contemplate. It's almost the only

way she can associate herself to the nature that will save her life.

I like Soseki Natume's Kusamakura. I remembered how he described the

view from the hill was so calm and philosophical. I guess my work is

influenced by such tone of the scenes, poetic, yet there is an

existential element such as death will be ahead of us. I used to cry all

the time, when I first realized the idea of dying like my parents will

no long there. In a way, I simulate death by laying down so that I won't

be afraid when I face in real one. I believe such naïveté and innocence

are very important for human beings to maintain even when we grow


Can you describe what Ukiyo-e paintings are? How did they influence "Wanderlust"?

Ukiyo-e painting is a Japanese traditional

woodblock painting. I like the composition and gestures of the figures. I

researched them well, especially the women's series.  Normally, these

paintings don't follow Western three-point perspective. They're rather

flat - like the figures are floating. I tried to apply this technical

element to my photographs by tilting the camera or using extreme angle

to frame my images. Also, to use vivid color combination is very

important for me. I coordinated the dress and the landscape. Ukiyo-e also

looks very fashionable and colorful.

Dina Mitrani is located at  2620 NW Second Avenue in Miami. Admission is free, and the gallery is open 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Call 786-486-7248 or visit

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Amanda McCorquodale