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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

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APRIL 2021 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: New York

49. (Bedford-Stuyvesant)

When a global pandemic breaks out and international travel is curtailed, a Japanese artist who lives part of the year in New York finds herself unable to make a planned return to her native land. As she waits for travel restrictions to ease, for each of the next 125 days, as the virus spreads throughout the city and the number of hospitalizations and deaths rise, she ventures out of her studio in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn to create new works of art. The first step of her creative process is to take a charcoal rubbing from the bark of a neighborhood tree using a small piece of washi, the traditional Japanese paper made from the fibers of the inner bark of several species of trees and shrubs. Each leaf-like piece of washi is stamped with a five digit number indicating the year and where the work falls within her annual production. Back in her studio she seals each rubbing in a small glass-and-copper box that she has soldered together herself. Depending on what the weather was like when she made a particular rubbing, she chooses from three different colors of metal edging: silver for sunny days, gray for overcast skies and black for rain. On the top of each box she engraves the date, her name and the phrase “I am still in New York.” As the series progresses and pandemic conditions worsen, the artist marvels at how, day after day, the trees remain standing unchanged, “almost as if,” she observes, “they were holding space for humanity.” Continuing until the day she is finally able to depart for Japan, the series eventually grows to some 185 boxed rubbings, a forest of small gestures.

(Keiko Miyamori)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

All Issues