Nucleus 1995



E XP L O R I N G  A  M O V E M E N T :   F E M I N I S T   V I S I O N S   I N   C L A Y, Downey Museum of Art, Downey, California, 1995

Curator: Jo Loria

terra-cotta, tar paper, laser print, graphite


The HeArt Project in Los Angeles commissions professional artists who see teaching as part of their art making and who embody excellence regardless of their career stage. They bring weekly arts programs to continuation high schools and community day schools, offering an alternative art classes to students who have not been successful in traditional educational settings. Nagasawa was asked to work with students from Central High School in Los Angeles. Her goal was to empower inner-city youth to become leaders of character, vision and action in their communities by challenging their creativity and equipping them with practical, and confidence-building skills.

She offered her invitational museum show to be a creative venue for the students by encouraging them to ex- press themselves through drawing and sculpture.  Drawing with graphite, the students depicted themselves in their urban environment and in relation to the idea or symbol of “egg.” Students shared their stories, and discussed how art can validate and communicate one’s experience.  Each student pressed the clay into half of the mold.  Two half molds were then pressed together to create one egg, emphasizing that collaboration is essential to succeed in life. They subsequently participated in the creation of terra-cotta eggs to be exhibited in a museum.

The entire floor was covered with thick tar papers, which provided a strong smell within the space. A large black and white photo collage of the Los Angeles freeway underpass was installed in the corner of the room, evoking a sense of speed and danger. Six-hundred and sixty-nine terra-cotta eggs poured out from the image of the freeway underpass, expressing the danger and the vulnerability of the urban life of inner-city youth, while the entire wall space was covered with graphite drawings expressing hopes and aspiration of their future.

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