A public reception will be held during the First Thursday Art Walk on March 7, 5-8 p.m. An artist talk will also be presented on March 16, 2-4 p.m. • Courtesy of J. Rinehart Gallery

Longtime Seattle artist Saya Moriyasu debuts a new body of work in Ozekitachi 尾石達 — Stone Tails, opened Saturday, March 2 at in Pioneer Square.

This new body of work arose from visits to hot springs, or onsen in Japanese, on a road trip to an artist residency at Mission Street Arts in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, and is a progression of works envisioning kami, or deities and spirits, inhabiting everything around us — a physical and visual story of Moriyasu’s encounters with these onsen creatures and how she imagines their interactions with the world around them. The hot springs are the driving force of this exhibition.

For Moriyasu, she considers herself, “attuned to something. Not religious per se in an organized way. I like how Shinto takes in the power of the natural world.​​” Shinto, which is regarded as a nature religion indigenous to Japan, centers around kami and the natural world. These Shinto beliefs are reflected in each creation, through the earthly palette used throughout the series of work, the oozing color trails stemming out of various openings, and the organic and freeform nature of each onsen creature that is featured.

The exhibit demonstrates a deep reverence for the various spiritual beings that dwell in every facet around us, evident by how each artwork is imbued with emotion and a gentle energy.

The artist at work • Courtesy of the artist

Moriyasu’s intentional touch makes these ceramic forms feel ancient, as if they’ve been in existence for generations, exposed to the elements, smooth as if water had been beating up against rocks. Each creature is shaped with soft, organic curves reminiscent of flowy waves, and with enough presence to capture your attention and engage. They evoke an ethereal, transcendent quality that encourages the viewer to pause and reflect on the texture of the clay, the brush strokes on the paper, and the story that each creature has to share.

Through Moriyasu’s creative hands, she breathes life into these works and imparts connections between the materials they are made of and the earth they came from. Looking at the onsen creatures, one can’t help but wonder about the emotive state of each face. Are they meditating? Feeling stoic, or maybe contemplative? Being confronted by the creatures encourages thoughtful reflection.

The works on paper capture the slow movement of ripples in water, and the relationship between the kami, and the natural world around them. Moriyasu’s onsen creatures are delightfully captivating, capturing the fleeting moments of encounters with these creatures.

‘Ozekitachi 尾石達 — Stone Tails’ opened on March 2 at J. Rinehart Gallery, and will be on view through March 27. 

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