Though Japanese-American artist Taiji Terasaki only made his artistic debut about five years ago, his lifetime of training and experience with diverse creative endeavors and non-profits have leant his work a distinctive blend of acute social awareness and ever-evolving innovation.
Based in Honolulu, the artist has shown his art both within Hawai’i and internationally, including at the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Japanese American National Museum, and, most recently, the 2022 LA Art Show.
This year's Art Show, which ran from January 19th to the 23rd, featured artists and organizations from across the globe displaying works addressing the theme of environmental consciousness. Terasaki added his voice to the conversation by showcasing his NFT series, metal weavings, “mist media” photography, and an interactive live mist installation, all speaking to climate concerns like rising sea levels, the politics of water, and conservation efforts within the Pacific.
As a verified Conscious Crypto Creator, Terasaki is part of a global movement empowering and educating artists to use clean NFTs to educate others about environmental issues and advocate for clean NFT platforms. As such, all of Terasaki’s NFTs displayed at the show were minted using environmentally sound methods.
In an interview with Arts Help, Terasaki talks more about his practice, his inspirations, and his journey with NFTs.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself as an artist?
Since childhood I’ve been doing art, then I went to college and got an MFA. I really loved the program and everything, but there were many years, about 20 years 30 years, that I wasn't really doing studio art — I really picked it up very intensely about five or six years ago. So my advice to everybody is it’s never too late!
It's just the time of my life, this is what I want to be doing. I have a studio here in Hawai'i as well as a team of people. I worked as a designer for a while, and I learned how to work as a team — I really love that part. When I thought about being an artist I always thought "it’s going to be so lonely" but somehow I was able to structure it so that I’m actually working with a team of creative people, so it's a really, really fun time for me.
Much of your practice involves working in a wide variety of media and cutting-edge technology, including sculpture, photography, and mist projections. What drives you to explore all of these different media in your art?
I would say that I definitely think most about innovation — that’s what really drives me. So technology and being able to play with materials and what they communicate, and then working in what is happening in society and its concerns — that's what I feel like I do.
In graduate school, I had a vaporizer in my studio, and we had those slide projectors with the carousel, and those two matched and the mist screen was born. To my surprise, like thirty years later or something, no artist has explored that [method] very much I’ve found, so it really gave me the opportunity to think "this is what I want to explore."
So that’s been the basis of my work I would say — I’m calling it “mist media.” Many things revolve around the mist projections, but I still can't help but do other things — video, immersive projects and all kinds of things, but I really think the mist has always spoken to me very poetically. When I was in undergraduate school I did a piece in the swamps, and it talks about impermanence and the fragility of our world. This is especially pertinent today, and I really believe that the material of mist has many things that I wish to express.
How long have you been making NFTs?
First, I did an exhibit and explored augmented reality and I really loved it. I love exploring on the edge like that, and of course NFTs have come up as part of that.
I have to tell you that NFTs really mean a lot to me because my father was a research scientist, and I've been jealous of the research scientists because they have research journals, so they're always publishing their inventions or their investigations in journals, and it's always noted and they get the credit for it! And that's how they move forward and that’s how they build their research. Finally, I feel like there’s something there for artists to really put on record what they have done and it's there, and it's there forever.
It’s really a great validity stamp of the hard work that goes on in my studio because I'm also defending my studio staff who works so hard on all this, so I’m so happy about NFTs. I’m so excited to keep pursuing it.
I just started and I have to say I’m so thankful to Arts Help, because we were in a position where we joined the LA Art Show and we knew we wanted to do some NFTs, and we knew we didn’t want to be guilty of causing detriment to the environment, so I’m so thankful that we came across Arts Help and that they gave us recommendations for how to get around this. There are so many factors to bringing out an NFT, and I took the masterclasses that you have, and that was so informative and so complete.
What was your learning experience like with NFTs? Was there anything that surprised you?
I would say, once it was up and once it was on the platform, it was surprising to me how now we were out there in the metaverse and how it has the potential of reaching so many people — and not in the traditional way. I really appreciate that and I'm just surprised — somehow I feel so young because I’m on this cutting edge platform!
In the end I encourage all artists to try it, because if you get the right advice, it's not so hard and I'm looking forward to the process.
What was your experience exhibiting at the LA Art Show? Can you speak a little bit about the NFTs that you showed there?
Yes! I felt very honored that I was given the position. They approached us because they said that the theme was environment, and I was very thrilled to do that and get some exposure in that way.
Actually, it was the first art fair that I participated in, so that was unusual too. Normally I have done things in the nonprofit world, so it was actually the first time that I really tried the commercial end. As an artist, I guess I'm always driven by a little bit of pressure. I've been addressing many things, like in the summer it was COVID issues and the things that came with that. Now, I decided that I really want to focus on climate change, so I was really happy to bring out the work.
I was inspired by a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson. He starts off saying “the water understands” but in the end he says something along the lines of “if you treat it ill, it will destroy, but it will destroy in a very golden way.” So in a way, what I’m trying to do with those NFTs is trying to talk about a difficult discussion and think about it in an artistic way. There's the aesthetic of beauty and danger intertwined together.
How did people respond to the works that you displayed at the LA Art Show? Were there any interesting interactions or reactions that took place?
I think definitely people are still trying to understand NFTs, so I felt like a lot of our time was explaining what an NFT is and how they can acquire it.
We set up the installation of the live mist, and I was surprised that people seemed to comprehend pretty quickly that it’s this live mist with the projection on it, and most people were amazed because they’d never seen it before. Having that live element right next to the NFTs, capturing the imagery from the live mists, they really appreciated that and really understood what I was trying to do with the NFTs.
People generally seem very interested in what’s to come, and I hope to get the community to develop further.
Do you have any future plans or goals for your art?
I’m also very excited to explore how NFTs could really make a difference and make action happen. In my years of work, it's always my hope that the art can create action and change. It’s always a challenge to be confident that it is doing good, but I think the NFT has potential, partly because people are buying into it. Perhaps there can be a way to donate. I really believe in non-profits, so donating to various non-profits through NFTs, that’s something I’d really like to explore.
See more of Terasaki’s work here.
Learn how you can become a Conscious Crypto Creator here.