In Maya Fuji’s new solo exhibition, she shows a series of paintings titled Humid Nostalgia. The striking series of works features Maya’s signature bold colour palette, painted with smooth lashings and depicting divine creatures, often naked and at ease in their lush foliage-filled environments. The series takes inspiration from the artist’s childhood summers spent at her grandma’s house in Kanazawa, Japan, where she was also born. A small city located in the North West countryside, Maya describes the location as unique “because while modernised, it holds many remnants of pre-Westernised times,” she tells us.
A far cry from the bustling urban landscape of Tokyo and the other major cities, Kanazawa had few foreigners in its midsts. Maya continues, “leaving me the only mixed race child in the classroom or playground.” Growing up, she explains, “I was constantly reminded of my ‘otherness’ when in Japan, despite a deep connection to culture and traditions, leaving me feeling similarly foreign when back in the US.” These feelings pour into Maya’s evocative work. Her paintings feature a range of different bodies in a variety of poses, surrounded by both Japanese and North American elements.
“Most of my work is inspired by both my cultural heritage as well as the local microcosms of the San Francisco Bay Area,” adds the artist. Drawing out elements of Kanazawa’s historic architecture and traditional crafts, she then mixes in influences from the Bay Area where she grew up amongst friends of all different cultures. Examining themes of what it means to be multicultural, multiracial and multinational, she creatively explores how a sense of identity comes about. Importantly, Maya’s themes resonate with people from all backgrounds, an intention she sets while planning the work. “I love connecting and hearing stories of people’s experiences and how they can stay connected to their multiple cultures,” she adds.
Maya has always loved drawing and painting but, interestingly, she decided not to pursue it after high school. She graduated with a degree in Business Administration and later studied for a Master’s in Accounting where she hoped to become a tax accountant. She started working at an accounting firm when she realised that this career path was “not going to make me happy”. When asking herself what she really wanted to do, she realised she was happiest when working on creative hobbies. And with that in mind, she stopped letting nerves get in the way of pursing art, and decided to drop out of grad school.