Motoko Maio, Japanese, born 1948

Made in Japan, Asia

Heisei Period (1989-present)


Silk and paper, mounted as a screen

a: 60 1/16 inches, 8 feet 9 1/8 inches (152.5 × 267 cm) b: 48 1/16 inches × 12 feet 1/8 inches (122 × 366 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

* Gallery 242, Asian Art, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Howard H. Lewis and an anonymous donor, 2009

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Kotodama (“the soul of language”) is embellished with word-filled fragments of antique paper from books and accounting ledgers and layered scraps of red silk from kimono undergarments over a mulberry paper surface. For Maio Motoko, words have spiritual power: the assembled word fragments, having no meaning themselves, create a visual world of words. The pair of six-fold screens, a traditional functional Japanese form, are a superb example of Motoko’s screen creations. She has said, “Don’t you think that the screen is the material embodiment of Japanese culture? While a flat surface is being created, it is simultaneously three-dimensional. It freely changes shape and transforms space. Light and shadow can be created in the twinkling of an eye. It also communicates the sensitivities of beauty and in a physical form expresses the fleeting, transient nature of life. It is both a painting and an object—a bewitchingly ambivalent form.”

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.