Maia Lynch (b. 1974) explores the fragmentary nature of contemporary identity through painting, ceramics, and videos. Her experience living in between American and Japanese cultures inspires her works, in which the past enters into conversation with the present, bringing with it the potential for grief as well as transformation.
In 2016, Lynch received a Traveling Fellowship from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, allowing her to return to her mother’s birthplace of Shikoku, the smallest and least populated of Japan’s four main islands. While Lynch was born and raised on the East Coast of the United States, she spent time as a child in Shikoku, described by Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe as “a peripheral, marginal, off-center region of [a] peripheral, marginal, off-center country.”
The works on view raise questions about center versus periphery, unsettled identities, what it feels like to belong to multiple communities, and the potential of what is unfixed. Lynch posits that transitional states and emotions are not simply challenges to be overcome on our way towards neatly resolved endings, but instead the fabric of contemporary identity. In Boulder (2011–18), shapes form and reform accompanied by a low, meditative murmur. Tombstone Letter (2017) pulses with intense and saturated color, reflecting Lynch’s interest in Japanese Nihonga paintings produced using mineral pigments (Iwaenogu).
Inherent in all of these works are ideas of loss, grief, trauma, birth, renewal, dislocation, and growth. “I left [Japan] with a sense of having time travelled,” Lynch writes, “a sense of belonging to two different places that cannot be physically or psychologically reconciled."
(Photo: Maia Lynch, Tomb Hug, 2016. Gouache on paper. Reproduced with permission)