Chicago Artist speaks about ancient Japanese art form

An artist in the ancient Japanese art of suminagashi spoke about her childhood and background as a mechanical engineer that led her to a life of painting.

Suminagashi is an art form in which the artist uses water as a canvas for ink paintings, before transferring the image onto rice paper. Amy Lee Segami said she has taken the art in a modern direction.

“In the traditional way, you aren’t supposed to do anything,” Segami, who is from China, said. “You are supposed to let it go with the flow. You aren’t supposed to impose any of your will on it.”

Segami said her work stands out because it is so rare to see in the present day.

“No one else is doing it,” Segami said. “There are people who claim they do painting on water, but it is totally different. You say it’s passion, but it’s also to open people’s eyes and open their minds, that they can stretch and reach for something.”

“Where I was born, where I was from, they told me I was not worth the price of rice,” she said. “My father told me I was to study and be serious. All along as I was doing that, I had no choice but to tuck away my dream into the freezer.”

Segami eventually got a degree in engineering with a focus in fluid mechanics. After working as an engineer, Segami began taking art classes as a way to stay connected to her Chinese heritage. She eventually left her corporate job to work as an artist full time.

Today, Segami also credits her father and her background in engineering as the inspiration for her art.

“Truly, if it wasn’t him telling me I needed to have something secure, I couldn’t be doing what I do,” Segami said. “Truly, it was all that engineering that made it possible. And I can tell you, when you have a deep, deep passion in your heart, it will never go away.”

Posted in Artisans, News, Suminagashi