Any contemporary art lover might have loved being the proverbial fly on the wall of the barn in East Hampton where Jackson Pollock created his paintings. Everyone who attended the Cleveland Museum of Art’s (CMA’s) Spring Members’ Party in May had the rare privilege of watching Japanese artist Miwa Komatsu create one of her “live paintings.” It was a truly memorable performance with the artwork coming alive before members’ eyes. The result is called “From Cleveland, Divine SPIRIT at the Gate Opened by the Connection of Many Souls through Prayer.”

And while livestreaming almost any process seems possible these days, watching it remotely versus experiencing it are vastly different realities. “Currents” had the chance to ask Analiese Soden(AS), CMA’s director of stewardship and donor relations, plus the artist Miwa Komatsu (MK) some questions about this unique and exhilarating experience.

1) How did CMA come up with this idea for the Spring Members’ Party?

AS: Our presenting sponsors for [CMA’s current exhibition) “Shinto: Discovery of the Divine in Japanese Art,” Hiroyuki and Mikiko Fujita, introduced us to Miwa. The Fujitas follow Miwa’s work and thought we might be interested in hosting an event in conjunction with “Shinto.”

After learning more about Miwa’s work, plus the energy and excitement around her performances, we decided this would be a great fit for the members’ party.  Miwa’s work is rooted in [the] Shinto [religion] and represents a way to connect the past (as seen in the exhibition) with a contemporary artist’s practice.

2) How did artist Miwa Komatsu choose to accept CMA’s invitation?

AS: Miwa came for the CMA director’s dinner in April.  She and her team met with many of the staff. She agreed to the performance and we developed the project in the Ames Family Atrium the next day over lunch before she left Cleveland.

3) What effect does creating in front of a large crowd have on Miwa’s work, process and result?

MK: Art is medicine for people’s hearts and souls. That’s why I do live painting: to connect with peoples’ souls; facilitate interaction with each other and to grow. I’ve done many live paintings, but this was the first time at an overseas art museum. When I arrived at CMA I felt the power of the artworks and felt drawn by different kinds of powers, including from the crowd who came to witness my live painting. I could feel the energy from them and their land, and I was able to make it my own. I am proud to have done this live painting at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

4) What was Miwa Komatsu’s reaction to CMA’s Shinto exhibition?

MK: It was a wonderful exhibition and I was able to learn more about Japan. I felt positive energy from many of the artworks gathered in this exhibition. Certainly the spirits that live in these artworks have chosen Cleveland. I was born and raised in a mountain town so Shinto is very familiar to me.

There were many roadside shrines. Respect for nature and awe for its beauty was embedded in our everyday lives. Although the earth is large, by focusing on natural energy, you can grasp the same pure energy of my hometown. I felt a lot of natural and spiritual energy in Cleveland.

I am grateful for the amazing bond created by my live painting at CMA.

5) What was the turnout for the Spring Members’ Party and what kind of feedback has CMA received?

AS: We had 1,235 guests. Many remarked, “How are you going to top this next time?”  It was incredible to see how engaged the audience was.  We will definitely be looking for more opportunities like this in the future.

Mark your calendars now for CMA’s Fall Members’ Party on Thursday, October 17, 2019.

Japanese contemporary artist Miwa Komatsu created a “live painting” in front of a large audience at CMA’s Spring Members’ Party. Photographs courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art