Kei Ota’s background as a former ballet dancer and her identity as a first-generation immigrant in the United States and "kikokushijo" (returnee) in Japan inform her practice, both of which have left her with a hyperawareness of her body and its surroundings. While these experiences are vastly different, they all share an underlying sense of disorientation and disembodiment. As a dancer, the disparity between body and mind, and as an immigrant, the disparity between two cultures, have left her feeling like a ghost floating between these realms.

Her primary painting practice explores tensions between figuration and abstraction, tensions that parallel oppositional embodiments of feeling foreign and native, as well as dream and reality, by drawing images from her memories using Surrealist methods of automatism. Meanwhile, her physical experience as a dancer informs her desire to shape painting beyond its two-dimensional form as a body in space or as a dancer. Through painting, video, and installation, she aims to immerse viewers in the theatrical nature of memory that exists in the gray borders between cultures and languages.


© Kei Ota