Tuesday, April 2, 2013


HANAFUBUKI and Shofuso were covered in an article by the Knight Arts Foundation!

HANAFUBUKI - An Unseasonable Display

This installation was my final piece in the Shofuso Colors exhibition series, and signaled the close of my residency. I used a bright iridescent pink twine to evoke the paths of Cherry Blossom petals as they cascade and flutter in the form of HANAFUBUKI (Cherry Blossom Snow, or literally Flower Snow).

I also hoped to chip away at notions of seasonality, by converging spring and fall, birth and death. I found an interesting analogy between the flourish and fall of of leaves in autumn and the flourish and fall of petals in spring.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

SHADES OF TRUTH : The Means is the Message

If you stopped in at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden (in Fairmount Park Philadelphia) anytime durning the month of August, you would likely have seen a young gentleman (me) scouring the gravel strewn about the property along paths and perimeters. You might have wondered, "What is this person doing, collecting pebbles one by one? Why would somebody do that?"

As time went by and the collecting continued, a method to the madness emerged. These pebbles were being slowly relocated to the entrance pathway. They were harvested for a growing art-installation that decodes the anomalous grey of Shofuso's existing gravel into a surprising spectrum. The gray contains hidden colors and vitality. The finished piece, called Shades of Truth, is 24'x1.5',  the result of roughly 50 hours of patient and painstaking selection, one pebble at a time.  The piece and its process are a testament to the selective nature of historical interpretation, which is the foremost function of Shofuso as a beacon of Japanese culture. Small granules of chromatic "truth" - hard and reliable just as we consider "fact" to be - are arranged by deliberate selection into a symmetrical gradation to express the pointillistic / impressionistic nature of history..... that when we are close it is about details, and when we are distant it is about context/perspective. One that draws those details into an imperfect summary vision (imperfect because no matter how "well arranged," a summary stands in neglect of specificity).

Before any of these concepts arose, my intention was to explore Shofuso's identity as a host for culture through a prism of color. With Shades of Truth, I addressed the issue by using Shofuso's own materials as my medium. All the pebbles used are ones that exist at Shofuso, ones that have collected the history of weather, time, human traffic, etc over many years. Therefore it is site specific in the purest sense. The colors that emerged from what was ostensibly gray is astounding. Pinks, burgundy, beige, yellow, white, blue, black, grey, and others. I wanted first to surprise visitors with this hidden reality, but its conceptual impact revealed itself through the meticulousness and tactility of the process.

The gravel will slowly rearrange with the trampling of feet and the spectrum of colors will eventually even back out into a greyish mosaic as history continues to accumulate and summarize.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shofuso Views

This diptych is a selection from Shofuso Views, my exhibition of Polaroid images that explore the abstract side of Shofuso - a 17th Century style Japanese house that exists in Fairmount Park Philadelphia. Polaroid is iconic for its connotation of travel, and its implication of "the instant." I used these two dimensions - alongside the unique color and focusing effects that are innate to the medium - to depict the dreamlike quality of Shofuso, while drawing relationships between Shofuso's own parts. The "instant" seemed like the best place to unify seemingly differentiated elements.

SHOFUSO COLORS: 2012 Art Installation Series by Aaron Mannino

The postcards are finally done. This is actually happening! Throughout this year, I will be presenting month-long site specific installations (sculptural and video) at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Fairmount Park. As their first Artist In Residence, this is a perfect opportunity to express all the potential of combining contemporary artistic objects into a heretofore traditional environment. Come see and share your thoughts. Lets make Shofuso a place of constant artistic/historical interpretation. Lets keep it alive and vital and relevant as a philadelphia landmark. Scratch that....as a US landmark!!

COLOS is a noun and a verb.


March 31-April 29 – Shofuso Views exhibition.  Loosely inspired by Hokusai's 36 Views of Mt. Fuji, this series of instant photographs captures both intimate and broad details, creating a spanning
portrait of Shofuso as both a concrete reality and dream-like space. Free at Shofuso’s Sakura
Pavilion weekends in April from 11am-4pm.

May 5-July 1 – The Way Home installation Within this 7-panel folding screen, or byoubu, west
and east synthesize. The byoubu flanks initial entry in to the house, confronting and enrapturing
visitors with a vibrant, colorful display in Shofuso's early summer foliage.

July 5-15 – Monsters in Sacred Spaces installation. This video installation challenges the
pervading atmosphere of reverence, serenity, and untouchability in the Shofuso experience.
A collage video piece depicts scenes from films in which sacred, traditional, and old-world
structures are the brunt or host of destruction.

August 1 – Shades of Truth installation. Shofuso's multicolor gravel which lines the entrance
pathway will be rearranged into gradients of light-to-dark. This piece taps into the concept of
historical interpretation and the idea that Shofuso, as well as all "historical" representations;
contain shades of truth and fact rather than pure truth and fact.

September 5-16 – 575 Haiku installation. This exhibit draws heavily on the strict haiku form as a
means to draft a color-based narrative about Shofuso, centered on tea ceremony.

October 4-28 – The Way Home installation. With this 7-panel folding screen, or byoubu, the
vibrant, colorful installation will be reinterpreted in autumn foliage.

November 10 & 11 and 17 & 18 – Hanafubuki installation and tea service. Recreating the
experience of hanafubuki or cherry blossom snow, visible from afar. Shofuso will be open on
Saturday and Sunday for limited hours in November and will feature hot cups of matcha, or
green tea, stirred with milk, creating an intimate cherry blossom viewing with a chill.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I was reading an old volume of Haiku, and stumbled upon one that resonates so concisely with the TRUTH OF THE BLOSSOM installation that I was startled.

          THE CHERRY

I feel as though this installation has now connected to a lineage of thought and living-metaphor ages old.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Concept: In my efforts to help Japan in a time of need, I could not help but frame my response to the March earthquake artistically rather than philanthropically. I was seized by a profound mental image : A fault line drawn with cherry blossom petals. The poetry of the image had truth, because as the earthquake and tsunami struck, and as the nuclear hazard increased daily, the Sakura Blossoms flourished and fell here in Philly. I saw nature creating this amazing and poignant statement about the passing quality of all things, good and bad. I felt hope for healing.

TRUTH OF THE BLOSSOM is a site-specific installation work at "Shofuso Japanese House and Garden." This piece was a commission sponsored by the Heritage Philadelphia Program (PEW). It functions as an ephemeral memorial for the March 11th earthquake. I created a mark that was derived from the major fault lines of Japan, but rendered specifically to the berms of shofuso's viewing garden. The jagged mark, which suggests fractures (in the landscape, in time, in the normal function of things) breaks boundaries and extends beyond Shofuso's fence.

MATERIAL: The color pink, representing cherry blossoms, was made from a mixture of Pulverized Limestone and Pulverized Washable Chalk. Limestone is a restorative material and is beneficial to soil PH levels. Therefore I was able to use a healing material in an artwork meant to representing healing. Form fitting function!

TRUTH OF THE BLOSSOM was displayed on Father's Day. Shofuso organized a full day of Tea Ceremonies to generate a relief fund for Miyagi Prefecture, particularly the city of Sendai (we raised $7,000!!). The tea ceremonies shared a kindred relationship to the TRUTH OF THE BLOSSOM. Both my artwork and Sadou (the way of tea) uses a material that is pulverized and beaten into a powder (Leaves for tea, stone for my installation). The tea master (Taeko Sensei) and I used those different powders to create fleeting life-giving experiences. Creation rises from destruction!