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Artist Turns Emotion To Ceramic


A new exhibit in Rapid City’s Dahl Arts Center captures human emotion through ceramics. The self-taught artist uses her experience with people during her time as a nurse to create expressive figures.

Yoko Sugawara, also known by her artist’s name Tenyoh, expresses complex feelings. She lived in New York working with HIV patients before moving to South Dakota. She studied at Oglala Lakota College on Pine Ridge then became a nurse in Rapid City.

“Those are the subjects not many people are familiar with. So I expressed what I saw, what I felt—any experience. My feeling is expressed in my 3D work as well.”

Sugawara started out as an oil painter. In 2012, she decided to teach herself ceramics and pursue a career as a full-time artist.

“That transition was not easy. Around here if you want to learn ceramic figure sculpting, there is no one who can guide you. So, I ended up going to Montana to take workshops and using instructional book, videos as my guide.”

Sugawara says it was worth the work. Her 3-D pieces are intimate figures, with many faces contorted into joyous smiles or intense scowls.

“I found the right medium for me. I think I’m doing a better job expressing emotion in 3-D than 2-D and that’s why I’m sticking with it.”

Sugawara’s ceramics are on display at the Dahl Arts Center through August.