Sunday, September 16, 2012

Capturing harmony: photographer Tomo Isoyama


Tomo Isoyama, at home in Santa Monica, California.

An invite into an artist's studio may be the most generous invite of all, and when it's a studio that doubles as their home, it's an even greater honor. To my mind, allowing friends, curators and collectors into such a private realm would require more nerve than hanging a show in a gallery! There's a magic to creation, and letting people enter the space where that energy is developed and expressed is hugely revealing. It's even a tiny bit demystifying at first, seeing an artist's process, but then the pendulum swings back to mesmerization as one looks around and sees objects reflective of the artist's outside interests, and realizes how all of those mementos and touchstones swirl into the mix.

I first met photographer Tomo Isoyama about ten years ago, when he had a work/live loft in downtown Los Angeles. We'd not seen him for a very long time, so when my boyfriend and I had the chance to reconnect with him this summer and visit his new place in Santa Monica, I was ecstatic.

Tomo, who was born in Tokyo, primarily focuses his work on the subject of cultural identity. He earned his MFA from USC's Roski School of Fine Arts in 2000, and has exhibited national and internationally. If it's not already apparent, I'm a huge fan of his photography. It's meticulous, smart, and exquisitely made. So it really wasn't at all surprising to find that his home and studio reflect those same attributes.

What I especially loved seeing were the many personal items set thoughtfully around the studio, like orderly footnotes at the bottom of an essay: books on art and medicine; a maneki-neko, or lucky cat; and that icon of American sport, a baseball and glove. (Even the appetizers brought down by Tomo's wife were artistically presented.)

I left inspired not just by Tomo and his work, but by the way he and his wife have merged their lives, their careers, and their homesomething my boyfriend and I are trying to do, too. The result of their efforts is a beautifully unified whole, and a tremendous expression of peace.