Mari Omori’s recent artwork is comprised of teabags, which she manipulates and stitches into dreamy nostalgic forms that explore the memories and interactions observed during Japanese tea ceremony. Tea ceremony extends beyond the consumption of tea to a multitude of beliefs and customs active in Japanese daily life. The ceremony represents a time of spiritual cleansing, a harmonious connection between the participants, a reverence for the traditions of the past, and a silent contemplation of the passage of time. For Omori, teabags are relics potent with meaning, and her works reflect these values. Mirroring the choreographed interaction between guest and host, her work reveals both a calculated organization and a commemoration of organic happenstance.
Omori noticed the stain on the teabag papers left behind by the leaves and was instantly drawn to the wealth of meaning and memory evoked by each distinct imprint. As she stitches the bags together, they collectively yield a hazy form, “an image, perhaps, of a house existing neither in real time nor space, or of a ship leaving one place to return to another.”
This dream house that exists between reality and her art is connected to her departure from Japan, and how that has obscured her identity and notion of home. As Omori has planted herself in America, she turns to her art to ask, “Is this a shape of my Japan?”
Individually, the teabags are symbols that epitomize wabi, the appreciation of beauty in things that are simple, humble, and natural. They also mirror Japanese tea culture’s preference for unmatching cups and bowls—the admiration for an object’s unique individual character, as well as it’s ability to exist in harmony with all the other utensils present in the ceremony. Together, the bags form a communal identity, which is reflected in her process. Larger works require the help of other hands, which she relates to bees building a nest, or ant colonies constructing complex communities. Just as one cannot perform tea ceremony alone, her works represent the community central to the philosophy of Japanese tea culture, pieced together one teabag at a time.
Mari Omori currently resides in Houston and is a multi-media artist, professor of art at Lone Star College in Kingwood, and curator. She has exhibited across the United States as well as internationally in Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Thailand. Her solo exhibition “at dawn and dusk” will open at Lawndale Art Center on November 21st.
Written by Julie Keselman.