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Japanese Street Artist Aiko Graces Eugene With Geisha Mural

(Alec Cowan/KLCC)

For Eugene 20x21 Mural Project Japanese artist Aiko is bringing stencil work and heritage to the city streets. She’s painting her mural on 6th street’s Parcade across from the Hult Center. To learn more, KLCC’s Alec Cowan brings us this audio postcard. 

This transcript has been edited for style and clarity.

AIKO: "My name is Aiko and I am painter, I am artist, I like making stuff."

"Well I guess you can see the image of Japanese women. She's a quite young lady. She's a Maiko, it’s an apprentice of geisha, and she's a trainer to be a dancer. And I chose this motif because it's very young energy around her and really festive. And I thought it's really cool for this world festival in Eugene to introduce my heritage and some happy vibes for everyone, you know?"

Credit (Alec Cowan/KLCC)
Aiko's favorite themes surround playing card and butterfly motifs.

"My wall is really tall and skinny so I had a little time to think about the execution. I chose this way to express day and night, like flip the girl, and it’s like a playing card. I like the butterfly. It’s an image of transformation and I feel like not only women, but for everyone, like we have the moment of transformation and I really like to keep painting the image of butterfly in different country."

"Stencil is one of the forms quite similar to printing. You have to spend a lot of time before start painting. I normally cut stencil all by my hand it's like my first stage of the production. For this wall, I spent two days cutting stencil and sometimes like I spent like months and months just cutting stencil for big size wall. And after you cut the stencil I need to carry all piece of paper to the site. I need an assistant when I do a large scale mural because the size of stencil is also enormous."

"The more I separate from my country, since I live in overseas last 20 years, I started getting into more my heritage and my roots and where I’m from and my culture, which is especially disappearing nowadays. Like I like to talk about a lot with my art. And the more I paint the image I can talk about it to lots of random audience and they can think about, like, 'what is this?' The girl with kimono, what is she doing? Is this an umbrella? And I like this way to communicate with people. I don't want to push too hard, like ‘think about Japan’ or ‘think about woman’ or ‘think about this.’ But I like to give the audience a chance to think about something and imagining something bigger and better for the future, you know?"

Credit (Alec Cowan/KLCC)
In contrast with the other two muralists in this series, WK Interact and Alexis Diaz, Aiko uses bright colors and spray paint.

"I am very fortunate the fact that I am in this scene last 20 years, seeing in the beginning and also now. And I just saw them, end of 99, 90s, I saw only a few artists available and acting on the street, pretty much illegal running away from cops try to get a lot of spots as much as we can. That was our game, and we didn’t have an internet. The way of communication is totally different."

Credit (Alec Cowan/KLCC)
Aiko says social media was revolutionary for street art, as it opened up different styles to the world and has since made the form popular.

"For me, street art was a way to make friends since I didn't have YouTube or Facebook, Instagram. So it's like leaving my hashtag and my art mark on the street.""And I think 20 years was like a great progress now. Everyone wants to have street art in your city or in your office, in your restaurant, you know? It's really amazing phenomenon."

"I think street art is also like an athletic game for me. Like climbing up the ladder, up and down, and up and down, and carrying buckets of paints. It's like, you know, an athletic game. So I think it's nice to celebrate together."  

This audio postcard about Japanese muralist Aiko was produced by KLCC's Alec Cowan. It’s part of a series on the 20x21 Eugene Mural Project.   

Part one of the series can be found here.

Credit (Alec Cowan/KLCC)
This massive stencil, which spans roughly 3x4 feet, is what Aiko uses to make her prints upon the wall.

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