Mie Kongo (BFA 2006) didn’t grow up dreaming of being a ceramicist. The Japan-born sculptor came to Chicago in 1992 to study at Roosevelt University. During that time she also took studio classes at SAIC and years later decided to return to the School to pursue her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Ceramics was something she took at the School on a whim, but her classes awoke a connection with clay that has guided her professional life since. Today, she is an internationally exhibited artist and adjunct associate professor in SAIC’s Ceramics department.
Kongo’s work is about finding harmony between disparate things—whether it’s materials, ideas, or influences. It seems natural that someone who started her career engaging with ideas would find satisfaction in the physical labor of art. She divides her time between Chicago and a rural Indiana town, preferring large, bustling cities while finding solace in quiet nature walks. Here are some of the obsessions of someone who welcomes contradiction:
A Japanese book whose title translates to Making In Between. The author talks about craft that people use and contemporary art that’s interactive. So, there’s a “maker,” an “experiencer,” and a “thinker.” Someone makes this work, then someone uses or experiences the work, and that leads to thinking.
Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). It’s three Japanese guys who made an early form of techno. When I was in fourth or fifth grade, the school dance club performed one of their songs. It seemed so sensational. Two years ago, I developed a sensitivity to [low-sound frequencies]. Things like pans colliding and low male voices really burn my brain. Someone made fun of my symptoms, like, “Oh, that’s a feminist disease: You don’t want to be in a kitchen or listen to men!” YMO doesn’t have a lot of bass. It’s upbeat and makes me nostalgic.
Sewing. I’m so in love with this fabric that’s 50 percent cotton and 50 percent linen. I want to immerse myself in it. Sewing is a new skill, so I’m making a lot of mistakes and discoveries. I’m really interested in that process. It’s good for teachers to be students sometimes—it reminds us to be compassionate and understanding.