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News: New Sone artwork planted in Boone Sculpture Garden

Artist Yutaka Sone is seen with his giant baby banana tree sculpture during its installation in the Boone Sculpture Garden in November.

A project three years in the making has taken root and blossomed as the newest addition to the Boone Sculpture Garden at PCC.

The 25-foot tall baby banana tree by Yutaka Sone, donated to PCC by Adelaide Hixon, was installed next to the U Building and finished by the artist in November after a long journey from concept to creation that took an extended tour through Guadalajara, Mexico where it was fabricated at the workshop of Jose Hoe Suro, known for his traditional ceramics studio.
Sitting in the shade of Galloway Plaza on a warm afternoon, Sone explained the genesis of his project. “My first idea was to create a giant baby banana tree out of rattan,” he said. “But this would not have been such a good idea for a permanent, outside display.”
Sone said he wanted to use organic materials, but had to use something that would not decay with time. Although he uses a lot of rattan in his studio work, “I’ll still want to see it standing into the future,” he said.
Sone said he got his initial inspiration from a banana tree in the garden at his South Pasadena home. After months of discussing his ideas with VAMS Dean Alex Kritselis, Sone settled on constructing his sculpture out of steel with a fiberglass covering. It is finished with oil based paint, the kind that’s used on the exterior of cars.
According to Kritselis, the process of developing a piece of public art is quite different from working in a studio on a piece for a gallery. “There are many different factors involved,” Kritselis said. “At the end [of the process], it is a collaboration, not a solitary endeavor.”
Weighing his concept, Sone said he took into consideration that the location is a sculpture garden – not an indoor gallery – so his work had to represent both the sculpture and the garden aspects. “I wanted something between a landscape and a sculpture, because this is a sculpture garden,” he said. “It took a long time to get the right concept; there were a lot of drawings and paintings.”
Also, the facility is still in the early stages of its development, so he wanted his contribution to be able to “grow” as more elements are added over time.
“There are many ideas layered on this one sculpture,” Sone said. “I wanted a baby with big ambition – like the students surrounding it, who are all young with big ambitions. This is a young garden, so I wanted to make a landmark.”
The sculpture was so large Sone needed a big space in which to create it, and this was difficult to find in Los Angeles, so he decided to use the studio in Guadalajara. With the construction completed and painted, but without the detailed finish, the sculpture was put on display at the city government plaza (a Spanish colonial style building) for about a month in the fall. It was not connected to the ground, so after the temporary showing it was packaged for transportation to Pasadena.
“I’m very happy with it,” Sone said. “This is the first time I’ve made a public sculpture. This is a big pleasure for me. I live here [in the area] so I did my very best work.”
Kritselis emphasized the difference between private and public art works. “While studio work remains in private hands, public work thereafter belongs to the public, and it’s subject to varying interpretations,” he said. “This [sculpture] is unlike anything else we have in Pasadena, even in Los Angeles. People are bound to ask, is it appropriate? Is it too green? Too big?
“People need to give it time,” he advises.

Release Date: 12/15/2008
Contact: Alexander I. Kritselis , Division Dean
Phone: (626) 585-7238

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