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About Fae


"I know you are but what am I?"

- Pee Wee Herman

FAE YAMAGUCHI

I see my paintings as a frozen moment in a continuing story. I always struggle when people ask me ‘”Why bears?” because my rational answer is only the surface. What I’m really doing is trying to convey an illusive feeling that I get. The bear just happens to be my instrument.

I chose a bear because I liked how standing bears look so weirdly human. Bears are also iconic – Teddy Bears, Yogi bear, Gummy bears etc. Yet, bears are also a dangerous wild animal.

The bear is always somewhat out of place in an urban setting. My earlier bear paintings were based on a “scene of the crime” idea. Something had happened and the viewer is seeing the after scene.

These recent painting are more about a feeling. The feeling may be mysterious or poignant, but contrasted with everyday iconic elements like clothes hangers, vending machines etc. one may sense an underlying humor.

I started making art over 40 years ago. The first time I knew that I would always be an artist was when I was an undergraduate in the University’s sculpture department. I had made this ridiculous dragon to be cast in bronze. By the time we finished the pour it was evening and getting dark. We could not wait for the plaster to cool so we hosed it down in the courtyard and there emerged this steaming golden dragon! I was absolutely thrilled. I thought, ”Wow! This is better than smoking dope!” (lol) It was the best natural high ever. In that moment, I knew I would always make art

I started with kinetic toy-like sculptures and moved into live action video where I became the movement in a fully costumed character. I included puppets and created a series of humorous short videos starring my pals, who are dear to my heart, Frank the Horse and Bob the Bird. You can see them on Youtube

I started painting during those video years. I did a lot abstract paintings that were very therapeutic to do and also quite bad. I started painting scenes. A scene of a crime. My style up to that point was cartoon-like. In 2013, I added a bear image to a painting. I showed the painting to my husband who said he did not like the bear and why did I paint it like a cartoon? I got very defensive and we or rather I, started to argue. My husband always says, Why do you ASK ME? You always get angry when I tell you what I think!”

Which I deny of course. Anyway, I cooled down and although I was still muttering, I decided to change the bear and make it look a little more realistic. And damn if it didn’t make the whole piece work! I had found a style that was worth following. From then, I focused entirely on painting.

I don’t think I’ll always be painting bears. I see myself moving in other directions as I grow. For now though, there are a few more bears in me that I need to get out.

I like it when viewers to come up their own stories of what they think is going on because I actually don’t know. I’d say I want viewers to feel the bear’s presence, to have a strange affection or attraction to that specific bear, and most importantly, to not quite be able to put that feeling into words.


Fae Yamaguchi was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. She lives in beautiful Manoa with her husband, daughter, two cats and one box turtle.  

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