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Salvaging Memories

Salvaging Memories
November 2011
Assemblage artist Hirona Matsuda pieces together her past

Hirona Matsuda’s friend recently brought her an old sewing machine table salvaged from a flea market junk pile. The 27-year-old will slowly take it apart, setting pieces aside for a project she may not start for months. Prone to traipsing downtown streets in search of ragged wood, furniture knobs, glass jars—any discarded bauble that she can appropriate into a miniature scene—the assemblage artist says, “I’ve always collected things, even when I was little. Now my art is about construction and deconstruction, incorporating found objects into nostalgic narratives.”

Matsuda starts with a salvaged frame, then uses panels of birch or scavenged materials to make a shadowbox to fit inside it. “The tone of this ‘support’ usually sparks the idea for a piece,” she says. Using screws, wire, and glue, she begins “puzzling” items into the box. “A time or place in my past usually comes to mind,” she explains. “A porcelain shard may become a sink and a piece of metal a mirror. Viewers sometimes interpret these objects differently but still relate to the mood of the piece and feel the same way I do when looking at it—I love that.”

Since graduating from the College of Charleston in 2007, Matsuda has worked at downtown’s Artist & Craftsman Supply and been busy creating pieces for exhibits at Eye Level Art, Rick Rhodes Art Gallery, the Old City Jail, Redux Contemporary Art Center, and more. A highlight for the artist, who loves collaborating with other local creatives, was the work she did in response to Marcus Amaker’s poetry for the “Contemporary Charleston 2010” exhibit at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park. Gallery coordinator Erin Glaze notes, “I find Hirona’s work very romantic and classical even though she uses unconventional media that’s not of the ‘masters.’ She offers viewers a keyhole perspective into a fantasy world.”

Matsuda has a big month ahead. A piece she did with painter Eric Johnson is included in “Fortunate,” opening at Robert Lange Studios on November 4. On the 26th, an exhibit of her work and Nina Garner’s goes up at Greenway Studio, and she’s also preparing for Seth Corts’ “Static in the Snow” show in December. It sounds like more and more viewers will be gaining admission into her miniature, salvaged-memory worlds.

Nov. 4-25: “Fortunate,” Robert Lange Studios, 2 Queen St. Daily, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (843) 805-8052,
Nov. 26-Dec. 31: “Small Spaces,” Greenway Studio, 10 Daniel St. Wednesday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. (843) 766-4330,