Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

Motoi Yamamoto’s labyrinth of salt

The Japanese artist's reflection on the shifting forms of life, meticulously shaped at PLACE, is about to return to its source.

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Photographs by K.B. DIXON


An extraordinary installation at PLACE in Portland is about to return to its source. Thursday, Dec. 15, is the final day for Motoi Yamamoto‘s solo exhibition Staying in Time, the result of a residency and part of a longtime process by the Japanese artist. Made entirely of salt and meticulously shaped into labyrinthine form, it is a temporary artwork reflecting on the temporary nature of life itself.

“Why do people die?” Yamamoto asks in a six-minute video exploring his work. “For 27 years I have been creating installations using salt. … In 1999, my younger sister died from a brain tumor. Since then, I have been on a journey of learning how to accept the deaths of loved ones,” including, later, that of his wife of 25 years. “In Japan, salt is used in funerals because it purifies the soul. … It was as if the salt helped me understand my emotions and accept my sorrow.”

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Chamber Music Northwest Beethoven's Complete Piano Trios The Old Church Portland Oregon

If the salt, echoing life, keeps its form for a brief time before breaking apart and dispersing into other forms, it can be shaped and made beautiful while it’s here. You can see the installation one final day, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, in the studio of the landscape design firm PLACE, 735 N.W. 18th Ave., Portland.

After that, it re-enters its sources. “Return to the Sea,” a placard on the studio wall reads. “The salt used for installation is always returned to the sea by the hands of people who agree with the concept. On the last day of the Staying in Time exhibition, we will collect the salt and return back to the sea.”

— The Editors

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Photo Joe Cantrell

K.B. Dixon’s work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and journals. His most recent collection of stories, Artifacts: Irregular Stories (Small, Medium, and Large), was published in Summer 2022. The recipient of an OAC Individual Artist Fellowship Award, he is the winner of both the Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Eric Hoffer Book Award. He is the author of seven novels: The Sum of His SyndromesAndrew (A to Z)A Painter’s LifeThe Ingram InterviewThe Photo AlbumNovel Ideas, and Notes as well as the essay collection Too True, Essays on Photography, and the short story collection, My Desk and I. Examples of his photographic work may be found in private collections, juried exhibitions, online galleries, and at K.B. Dixon Images.

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