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Women carry the burden in sculptor Lena Takamori’s solo show

Lena Takamori's stoneware sculpture "Woman with Suitcases."LENA TAKAMORI/COURTESY LUCY LACOSTE GALLERY

CONCORD — Lena Takamori’s “Woman with Suitcases” holds one bag in her left hand, another over her right shoulder. Her left hip juts, and she lists to the right. If you’ve traveled, you know her stance — how the body adjusts to the weight it carries.

A nuanced study of women in transit, “Introducing Lena Takamori: In Hand, On Foot,” the artist’s first US solo show, is at Lucy Lacoste Gallery. In these allegorical sculptures, women carry baggage, they stop to rest, they huddle together against the wind. They might be Afghan refugees; perhaps they’re fleeing a climate catastrophe. Or maybe they’re just traveling. One thing is sure: They are not at home.


Takamori, who lives in England, was born in Seattle in 1990. Her father was Akio Takamori (1950-2017), a celebrated Japanese-American ceramicist. Like him, Takamori makes stoneware figures, painting with slips and glazes, sometimes scoring the clay’s surface.

Her father’s sculptures were wry commentaries on the human condition. Hers are smaller (about half the size, at 1 to 2 feet tall) and quieter, more about empathy than commentary. This is a small show, with only seven works. Two landscapes — “Grove View,” an intimate little copse, and “Double Cloud,” with two dramatic downpours rooting clouds to earth — add to the sense that Takamori’s figures are out in the world, moving through the elements.

Lena Takamori's stoneware sculpture "Double Cloud." Lena Takamori/COURTESY LUCY LACOSTE GALLERY

Her subtle attention to the body’s experience makes the show affecting. She paints fluid shadows along the pale stoneware of “Woman with Suitcases,” inflecting the leaning figure with more weariness.

She attends to small gestures and small details, such as, in “Bending with Backpack,” the way the weight of the pack shifts. “Watching Woman,” who squats, puts one palm on the ground, as if reassuring herself of her place there. And “Blanketed Woman” lies on her side, holding an arm up so we can peer under the blanket. Surely, in this context, she is not in bed but sleeping on some cot, some floor, or some street corner.


Lena Takamori's stoneware sculpture "Watching Woman." Lena Takamori/COURTESY LUCY LACOSTE GALLERY

Takamori offers no narratives. Grounding her figures in the body’s experiences, she triggers a viewer’s muscle memory. We see in them our own stories of all we carry, and those of fellow travelers, their burdens on their backs.


At Lucy Lacoste Gallery, 25 Main St., Concord, through Sept. 25. 978-369-0278, www.lucylacoste.com

Cate McQuaid can be reached at catemcquaid@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @cmcq.