Meet the Artist: Noriko Shinohara

Born in Toyama Prefecture, Japan in 1953, Noriko Shinohara moved to New York City in 1972 to study at the Art Students League. After six months in the city, she met Ushio Shinohara, who is twenty one years her senior, and gave birth to their son Alex one year later. Financial and emotional strain paused Noriko’s career. She states, “after my husband had skimmed off my paint, canvas, and ideas, nothing remained in me.” [1] By the time Alex was two years old, Noriko returned to her work. Determined to develop her own distinct style, Noriko claimed physical space in their DUMBO studio. Banning Ushio from her self-proclaimed “queendom,” Noriko refused to let her work be stalled any longer. [2]

Noriko Shinohara, Reversible. 2014. Ink on paper. Ronin Gallery.
Noriko Shinohara, Reversible. 2014. Ink on paper. Ronin Gallery.
Noriko Shiohara, Here is Still... After Sept. 11th. 2002. Etching. Ronin Gallery.
Noriko Shiohara, Here is Still... After Sept. 11th. 2002. Etching. Ronin Gallery.

Noriko’s work brings together boldness of color, line, and persistent humor. Instilling her work with irony and poignancy, her contemporary scenes draw inspiration from a variety of art styles across time and culture. In 1981, Noriko exhibited her work at Whitney Counterweight, an artist-initiated group exhibition, followed by her first solo exhibition, held at the Cat Club in 1986. In 1994, she turned her tumultuous experiences in New York City into the basis of her novella Sighs of New York, which was accompanied by a solo exhibition in Tokyo. The following year, Noriko spent time in Japan studying etching at Kyoto City Art University and Tokyo National Art University. Her talent in this medium can be seen in the intricate, visually dense Un Voyage d’Inca series. Braid-wearing nudes float through images rich in texture and heavy in atmosphere. Noriko’s evocative power conveys humor, as in the fantastical scenes of animate sculpture and surreal gondola rides in Pineapple Eaters in Venice (1998). Yet, Noriko deftly uses her skill for poignancy as well. In Here is still…After Sep. 11th (2002), the print erupts in flowers and memories in the wake of this world-changing event. In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, the intricate etching evokes a mind caught between devastation and hope for the future.

Noriko Shinohara. Un Voyage d'Inca III from the series Inca. 2004. Ronin Gallery.
Noriko Shinohara. Un Voyage d'Inca III from the series Inca. 2004. Ronin Gallery.

Noriko is best known for her Cutie series, a semi-autobiographical story of her relationship with Ushio. The character of Cutie emerged in 2003, recognizable by her long braids and rounded, perpetually nude form. In Noriko’s words, “when I started Cutie I felt I am truly, from bone to skin, head to toe, an artist.” [3] The tale of Cutie evolves in comic-like fashion, with speech and thought bubbles furthering the narrative of self-determination. The story spans medium and scale, from intimate artist books to 20-meter-long murals. In 2003 and 2005, Noriko’s work appeared in the IPCNY New Prints exhibition. In 2007, she was included in the Japan Society Gallery’s Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in New York, a group exhibition with Ushio, Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama, and others.

Noriko Shinohara, Pineapple Eaters in Venice. 1998. Etching. Ronin Gallery.
Noriko Shinohara, Pineapple Eaters in Venice. 1998. Etching. Ronin Gallery.

1. Eric C. Shiner and Reiko Tomii, Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in New York (New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, 2007), 144.
2. Cutie and the Boxer. Directed by Zachary Heinzerling. New York: 2013.
3.Emma Carmichael, “Interview with Cutie and The Boxer’s Noriko Shinohara.” The Hairpin. August 01, 2017. Accessed October 01, 2017.

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