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Sayaka Ganz: Re-Formulations

One of the are’s most accomplished artists continues to grow

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


As Fort Wayne’s arts community continues to grow, the sophistication of the artists within it becomes the primary concern. Without strong studio practices, connections to the outside art world, and the construction of a personal market for working artists, the rest of our art world will not follow. Because Fort Wayne doesn’t traditionally have a community of these working artists, many of the those attempting this work are somewhat isolated. They find each other socially or at public art events, and slowly but surely become integrated into the arts institutions and overall fabric of this community.

Sayaka Ganz is one of the most promising local artists, having a steady studio practice, a growing market for her work, and international acclaim. Born in Yokohama, Japan, Ganz has a strong background in the unique Japanese aesthetics. “I was taught in kindergarten that objects that are discarded before their time weep at night inside the trash bin.” Ganz’s work has connections to Shinto philosophy as much as assemblage and sculpture. This central belief that all objects and organisms have a spirit of some kind can be seen in the work, as Ganz builds static structures of living organisms in movement out of inorganic scraps of plastic. These scrap pieces are collected from second hand stores and then cleaned and sorted in her studio. The objects then are “re-born’ completely through her work. This process of building sculptures is Ganz’s way of understanding ideas and the world around her.

Ganz’s entree to the Fort Wayne art world was her time as professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, teaching her students printmaking, however she grew up in multiple countries, including Brazil, Japan, and Hong Kong. It was through this travel that Ganz gained an appreciation for exotic animals. “Driven by a combination of my passion for fitting odd shapes together and a sympathy toward discarded objects, I create animals from post-consumer plastics.” These “puzzles” then come together piece by piece through an intense attention to detail and discipline. Ganz’s sympathy for the objects that she sources for her sculptures is evident. Ganz actually began in the arts with printmaking while in Bloomington, attending Indiana University. This then lead to her metal sculptures produced out of scrap pieces welded together.

This overall ability to produce sculptures that are constructed out of objects that have been used and discarded defines her work. This form of recycling can be seen throughout the art world with more or less intention, and varying degrees of success. Ganz’s ability to bend and mold the objects she has chosen to represent the eventual subjects of her work is what separates her from the others, making it incredibly unique. Chains become the neck of a crane, spatulas, small bowls, and other domestic items become the body of a charging horse, and combs and other kitchen utensils become elegant feathers draped throughout the air. Works like “Fogo” a fire engine red leopard and “Emergence” a pair of charging horses, one black and one white, charging from a wall, particularly highlight Ganz’s ability to source materials and design sculptures which succinctly denote speed, motion, and a feeling of animation. These aspects of her work highlight the process why which Ganz makes these pieces, through an almost three dimensional impressionistic sketch of her figures.

Because of Ganz’s strong work, she has won the respect of arts institutions throughout the region and beyond, exhibiting at organizations like the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum, as well as private collections throughout the world. While these exhibitions help get large numbers of people to see her work, most of Ganz’s work is commission based and she draws leads through her relationships from within the art world and through her website.

“Changing Tides” is Sayaka Ganz’s newest exhibition of local work, in collaboration with the Botanical Conservatory. This impressive multi-piece installation of Ganz’s work includes examples of her amazing repertoire of visual effects and her whole cast of animal figures, inhabiting the spaces between the Botanical Conservatory’s current exhibit of plants. The cast of figures includes jellyfish and dolphins, and less animated undersea inhabitants like kelp and coral reef structures. It is in this space of large scale installation work that Ganz very clearly defines her ability to amaze viewers and work outside of the confines of a traditional studio and gallery system.

“Changing Tides” is also very timely, with its sea creatures composed of plastic calling references to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other contemporary examples of how our consumption sometimes leads to environmental issues. From a formal standpoint, this installation also marks a departure from heavier opaque plastics used in exchange for translucent, gem toned plastic which catches the light and projects it, much like glasswork, giving Ganz’s work an entirely new dimension. Like a socially conscious Chihuly, Ganz’s pieces in this exhibition are built specifically to bend the light passing through them, and lend it their colors. Additionally, this exhibition includes a “hands-on Discovery Gallery” where viewers have the opportunity to examine the materials that Ganz uses and how she connects them together.

Because of artists like Sayaka Ganz, the Fort Wayne arts community now has a template for what can be done, realistically, as far as a career as a fine artist while living in Fort Wayne. It is difficult, it includes a great deal of planning, travel, and the multifaceted world of marketing and sales, but it is possible and profitable. Even more, Ganz works with a large number of other local artists as assistants for her projects, showing them how to organize a studio, install museum quality installations, etc. These experiences are invaluable and will hopefully produce a second wave of artists with studio practices developing under her.

To see more of Sayaka’s work:
Visit: www.sayakaganz.com
“Changing Tides”
Botanical Conservatory’s winter garden exhibit
January 10-April 5

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