Artist Statement

Photo by: Colin Mason

Melissa Ichiuji creates sculptures that are stunningly confident, bold, aggressive, playful, and original, full of sexual puns and possible allusions to larger traditions of Surrealist and contemporary works.

She thinks deeply about the conceptual and emotional resonance of her works in the context of the long history of Dadaist and Surrealist work, the histories of sexual representation in art and popular culture, and the connections with her experiences in dance and performance. Her sculptures are at once intimate, personal, and playful, and prompts for recognizing some of our deepest psychosexual fantasies and repressions. Many of Melissa Ichiuji’s childlike doll figures are also emblems of play, prompting us to recall what having a body was like when there weren’t any adults around to police appropriate behavior.

Her range of materials is striking, and the visible materiality folds in the already encoded cultural meanings and values for materials and mediums before they are reassembled. Each sculpture is hand sewn and may be assembled from fabric (plain or vintage), nylon, leather, wood, bones, fur, hair, and plastic and metal found objects. She uses nylon as a handy code for the female body: nylon is used as a second skin, both to cover legs with a transparent sheath and to define their shape and erotic potential. In her uniquely performative and hybrid sculptures, we find bodies combined with machine parts, metal, leather, fabric, an intersection of taboo and fetish, the bubbling up of repressions and deflections in fantasies achieving form. Melissa Ichiuji is a native of the Washington DC area and began her artistic career as a dancer and actor. She attended the prestigious Duke Ellington School for the Arts in DC and then danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in NY and later as Anita in the World Tour of West Side Story. She is a disciple of Joy Zinoman, of Studio Theatre, and has performed on many DC stages including Studio Theatre, Arena Stage, and The Shakespeare Theatre. After living in NY, Ichiuji returned to Washington and completed a degree in fine art from the Corcoran College of Art and Design. While still a student at the Corcoran she began experimenting with performance art and her 2005 piece entitled STRIPPED garnered national press and acclaim.

Her work has been featured in Art in America, NYArt Magazine, and Art Investor Magazine. She has exhibited in galleries and museums in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Munich and New York. She is extremely proud to be making her Washington D.C. Museum debut at The American University Museum at The Katzen Arts Center.

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