Artist Snapshot: Sadashi Inuzuka

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By Tehreem Sajjad, Daily Arts Writer
Published February 7, 2013

“Art for me is like religion because, without it, I get lost.”

A world-renowned ceramist, Sadashi Inuzuka’s transcendent art is celebrated for exploring the overlap between the natural world, science and society. Over the past 20 years, Inuzuka has exhibited his work to national and an international audiences. Currently, he is an associate professor at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.

“I was born and raised in Japan,” Inuzuka said. “Japan is a democratic country, yet when you are there, you have an obligation to society, an obligation to your family, and there are so many other elements like religion, culture and tradition. Japan’s social structure is not obvious under the layers of social hierarchy.”

After having been deemed legally blind, Inuzuka was discouraged from pursuing a career in the arts, but he used his visual impairment as a motivation to reach out to other disabled individuals and to help them discover their own artistic identities.

“I did not feel free,” he said. “I grew up in a very rigid manner. I was a very sensitive kid, but I could not show that. When I was a young boy, I wanted to come to America because that’s almost the opposite of that experience. Here, there’s the possibility to be someone. You’ll be given chances no matter where you come from or who you are — that’s my belief.”

Inuzuka’s college experience was different than that of most students. He was 30 years old when he attended college in Canada, but it was not his age that set him apart, but rather his experience.

“I could not go to college in Japan,” he said. “I was a very different student. I was always against that rigid structure, so until (age) 30, I was working in many different jobs, but I always believed that I could do something. I failed so many times. My life was never smooth. I realize now how hard it is to be an artist, and working hard is simply not enough.”

Inuzuka has gone on to receive world-wide recognition for his innovative work in the field of ceramics. He is the recipient of multiple awards and grants, some of which include The Canada Council for the Arts, The National Association of Japanese Canadians Project Grant, The Ontario Arts Council Crafts Grant and The British Columbia Cultural Fund Scholarship.

Regardless of the prominence and respect that he has gained as an artist, Inuzuka considers art an essential part of his life.

“I’m not working for recognition. I’m working for myself. I need that freedom of art to really think about who I (am) and why I’m here.”

Inuzuka said he emphasizes this way of thinking to his students.

“I’m not sure what I can teach. All I can teach is my experience. I want to teach about the freedom in art because that’s the reason why I’m here and, for me, that’s never changed.”