By Brooke Griffith/ May 2016

Manager of School and Outreach Programs, Cheekwood

Girl Bathing Suit

Swim, 2014, Stoneware, 38” x 19” x 13”

Kensuke Yamada is equal parts imaginative expressionist and enchanting communicator. With clay as his dialect and imagination as his tools, Yamada’s work manifests into figurative extensions of shared human experiences. Pops of color and pattern add character to the simple expressions of his ceramic figures, creating a unique rhythm that brings them to life. And with bright color palettes and the youthful energy of summer upon us, Yamada’s playful sculpture easily becomes the perfect fit for Cheekwood’s 2016 Artist-in-Residence this May.

The Martin Shallenberger Artist-in-Residence program has brought national and international artists to Cheekwood’s grounds since 2012. This intimate residency allows the artist to interact with the staff and visitors and opens a window for the community to witness different creative processes, works, and talent from around the world. As the first ceramic artist- in-residence, Kensuke Yamada will bring his talent and whimsical work to Cheekwood’s Frist Learning Center ceramic studio.

After emigrating from Japan to attend college in America, Yamada began to utilize sculpture as an outlet to express himself and overcome his language barrier:

“In my struggle to learn the language and communicate through speech I gained a strong empathy for the universal experiences that seem to provide the undercurrent to language. I gained an awareness for the complexities of our daily functions and the social infrastructures that subtly guide these interactions.”

This awareness, combined with his play of texture, pattern, color, and gestures, results in sculptural narratives that evoke the beauty, subtleties, and humor of everyday life. But it’s the youthful enchantment that embodies his work and begs the viewer to be in the moment—cutting past complexities and connecting stories between the artist and spectator.

During his time at Cheekwood, Yamada will create one-of-a-kind pieces while interacting and sharing his craft with the public, teachers, and the art community alike. On May 21, Cheekwood will host an intimate, interactive professional development workshop where he will teach, work, and create alongside participants. Afterwards, he will discuss his work and artistic journey in a lecture and open studio, both open to the public. There will even be a day of interactive and specialized activities centered on Yamada’s work, on May 24 during Cheekwood’s weekly drop-in art-making program for families, Tuesdays for Tots.

Yamada’s unique voice and undeniable whimsy will inspire people of all ages when his exhibition opens to the public in Cheekwood’s Frist Learning Center this June.

Visit Cheekwood May 21 at 12 p.m. for Kensuke Yamada’s artist lecture in Massy Auditorium, followed by an open studio from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Join Kensuke Yamada at Tuesdays for Tots on May 24 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Frist Learning Center. Both events are free with admission to Cheekwood.

To register for Kensuke Yamada’s professional development workshop or to learn more about his residency at Cheekwood, visit and click on the Martin Shallenberger Artist-in-Residence tab.

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