Ryan Takaba

Artist Statement

This project is a reflection on the private altar and mourning rituals, expanding into an installation where objects are attended to daily to transform the composition. The installation is comprised of porcelain forms that function as 49 flower vases, 49 candle holders, and 49 incense burners. The imagery for this work begins as the three basic shapes in a state of rest, the square, the triangle, and the circle. The porcelain flower vase forms a square referencing a topographical landscape. Each day a piece is moved and set to the left of the square eventually forming a line referencing a mountainous landscape. This landscape is completed with white mums that eventually wither as the work changes for the duration of the installation. The porcelain candle holders are cast with black pillar wax over a clear glazed porcelain in the form of an equilateral triangle appearing to recede inward or expand outward. Each day a piece is removed from the whole and placed in a vertical composition below, and when lit, the wax melts resembling molten lava. The porcelain incense burners form a circle referencing rippling water. Each day, a piece is moved and set to the right of the circle and incense sticks are inserted into the porcelain form and burned, leaving a patina on the bare porcelain and the wall to create imagery of the sky at dusk. Over the course of 49 days this installation transports the viewer from one place to another.

In Buddhist belief, the spirit wanders the dark moving to a new place every 7 days and on the 49th day a service is held to mark the spirit’s new resting place. At the person’s bedside are an arrangement of flowers, a candle, and the burning of incense. The source for this work stems from my observations of my recently deceased grandmother, who up until her 90’s, visited my grandfather every morning through daily prayer. A prayer involving lighting a candle, burning incense, and arranging fresh flowers at her bedside altar. Her dedication to belief makes me believe that her process transcends habit into ritual, and ritual into truth.

“49 to a new”


I am a material artist whose sculptures, tableaux, and installations are centered around a study of scientific reason and the power of belief. I experiment with properties and functionality of materials to solve design problems, formal aesthetics, and conceptual stances. My interest in materials as it pertains to science, exploration of process and duration, chance and unpredictability stem from my training and education in the ceramic discipline.

I earned an MFA in Ceramics from Kent State University and a BFA in Ceramics from the University of Hawai`i. I have participated in residencies at the European Ceramic Work Center -Netherlands, The Pottery Workshop in Jingdezhen -China, and was awarded a residency through The Contemporary at Blue Star to live and work at The Kunstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin -Germany. I currently live in San Antonio, Texas where my practice consists of three components -exhibition work, public art with my collaborative team, and teaching at the University of Texas San Antonio.