Natsuko Hattori is an artist based in New York City. Hattori, born in Fukuoka, Japan, started her art training early at 14 years old, studying drawing and painting at an artist atelier. She has received many awards and grants including winning the "Aoki Shigeru Memorial Grand Prix" award thrice, the "Westside of Japan Art Exhibition" award, and the "Exhibition in FUKUOKA" award in Japan. She also received the merit scholarship and the Red Dot award in The Art Students League’s Concours show in 2012.
Hattori graduated from the University of Tsukuba in 2010 with a Bachelor in Fine Arts. Since 2010, she had been studying at The Art Students League with Bruce Dorfman. In New York, her works have been exhibited in the Lobby Gallery at The Wall Street Journal Building, Consulate General of Japan, Space Womb, Caelum Gallery, First Street Gallery, the WAH Center Gallery, The ISE Cultural Foundation Gallery, Berkeley College, the Studio 57 Gallery, JaNet Art Space in NYC and Nave Gallery in Massachusetts. In Japan, she exhibited at the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art Gallery and the art gallery T+. Currently, her studio is located in Long Island City, NY.
The soft, comforting sculptures of Natsuko Hattori had their genesis in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Faced with unimaginable loss in her home country, she wanted to find a way to comfort those who survived and remember those who were lost. She chose fabric as her medium because of its relatability and for its conveyance of warmth, softness, and intimate human touch.
Her artwork begins with choosing and cutting fabric to make cotton filled balls. These vibrant, sometimes flamboyant colored balls are bound together to make each masterpiece unique and extraordinary. The act of wrapping is essential to her sculptures. The artist perceives the gesture of wrapping each ball of fabric as an act of transformation converting pain, sadness, and despair into love, and a prayer for comfort. Each ball represents the inner state of Mankind. She hopes her work conveys a sense of happiness and celebrates the human spirit.
MocoMoco (もこもこ) is a Japanese word that refers to a soft or puffy surface and the comforting feelings that one might get from holding a toy stuffed animal, or being wrapped up in a down coat. All of the works in this series are made from recycled clothing, so the materials, now wrapped around themselves, were once wrapped around a person. With this in mind, it may be possible to imagine that some essence from all those people may still remain as a sort of echo in these layers that they no longer wear. When placed together, these individual meditations on comfort become communities within which subtle differences come forth or the counterpoint that the “odd individuals” increase the beauty of the whole.
In the case of “Forever,” the most recent work in this series, instead of bringing together fabric from many sources, the artist used only one clothing that belonged to her recently deceased grandmother, basing the overall form on her grandmother’s favorite flowering tree.
Natsuko Hattori graduated from the University of Tsukuba, Art and Design, and moved to New York in 2010. Her work has appeared in many exhibits, and she received awards in Japan and NYC.
Hi, Natsuko. It’s great to see you! Thank you for your time for the interview. I would like to start with our main question.
Q: What is ART to you? What do you wish to communicate to viewers?
A: To me, ART can be freedom. I’d want to see the world filled with love, not hate. I make art hoping that it wraps its viewers with a sense of peace, happiness, relief, and comfort.
Q: You mentioned that ART can be freedom. Could you expand on how ART serves as a gateway to freedom?
A: There are many rules and common sense in our life. But art is always freedom for me and the best place to express me.
Q: I see. When and why did you decide to follow your path as an artist?
A: The biggest reason was my love for making art since my childhood. I always liked drawing, painting, and making things more than any other play. As a child, I went to Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition which inspired and influenced me greatly.
Q: That is really awesome that you were influenced by Yaoi Kusama. Such an incredible artist! What would you say motivates you today as an artist?
A: Doing art makes me feel like I can do beautiful magic. And the biggest motivation is the happiness of being able to make beautiful things from my own hands.
Q: Lastly, what has been the happiest moment and the challenging moment living as an artist?
A: My biggest challenge as an artist was living in New York and continuing to make art there. New York is a very stimulating city which I loved, but in order to survive as an artist in NY, you have to become a fighter and be strong. As much as it was difficult, it also helped me to realize how much I love art. Another challenge as an artist is continually creating new works. However, the happiest moments come when I have created those works.
I hope you continually create new works and share the happiness. It has been my honor to have this conversation with you.
Thank you, Natsuko.