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Kumi Yamashita is an artist based in New York City who makes ravishing art using unconventional methods. In her world, threads snaking around nails form figures, credit cards rubbed onto canvas become portraits, and shadows cast by resin plates create striking, magical images. Unlike other shadow artists like Noble and Webster, who create order out of chaos using heaps of junk as their shadow-casting objects, Yamashita’s work is very elegant. She uses simple objects, such as raised numbers or blocks, which have their own beauty even without the shadow projections. Naked Eye chatted with Kumi to learn a little bit more about what inspires her creations.

What is the driving force behind your shadow art? Why shadows?
I find shadows are beautiful. Shadows are fleeting and ephemeral. They cannot be named or held in your hand. In my work I find shadow to be the essence of the human being and of everything else in the world that we often overlook. Shadows reveal many faces of reality. In my work separated objects can be connected in shadow. It shows me that we all are connected.

What do you find most inspiring?
I want to be the best I can be. I love the story about Pheidias who was commissioned to make a sculpture on top of the Pantheon in ancient Greece. When Pheidias completed the works and submitted the bill, the accountant complained that Pheidias charged too much since no one could see the backs of the sculpture. The accountant said he cannot charge for the things that cannot be seen. And Pheidias said that the gods are watching and can see them. That to me is what it is to be an artist. I see the same attitude in Charlie Chaplin’s work, like he would not stop until he got it right. He went over, over and over a thing, days on one scene, sometimes months, and his films are so full and complete. They trigger all the emotions, anger, sadness, happiness, like a wonderful symphony or great piece of music.

I would imagine that the methods you choose involve some pretty painstaking, almost obsessive, labour. I am curious to know whether you look at artistic creation as an obsessive act.
I would call it a pleasure. I get so much joy in working on details and making it right. The pleasure is in the making of things and paying close attention to the details along the way. All of that attention and detail adds up and hopefully becomes one solid, well made, and clear expression of the original intention.