Naomi Kasumi, MFA
MFA, Visual Design
Professor, Art and Art History (Digital Design)
Associate Appointment, Asian Studies Program
Building/Room: Fine Arts 210
Seattle-based artist, scholar, educator, and designer, Naomi Kasumi, was born in Kyoto, Japan. She earned a BA in Social Welfare at Bukkyo University. In 1995 she moved to the U.S. where she earned an MFA in Visual Design at the University of Oregon. After earning her MFA Kasumi moved to Seattle, Washington, and in 2003 she established the Digital Design Program in the Department of Fine Arts at Seattle University. The program is now named the Design Program and is situated in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design. Kasumi was tenured in 2009 and became a full Professor in 2019.
Kasumi’s background is highly varied. She was educated in music beginning at age five; as a young adult she was an elite professional cross-country ski racer; and in the U.S. she certified as a PADI SCUBA dive master. Her involvement in outdoor sports has given her a deep connection to nature. Her profound appreciation for the natural world is visible in her artistic perspective and revealed in her installation art.
As Creative Artist
Recurring themes in Kasumi’s research and art include “presence and absence,” “memory/memorial,” and “loss and healing.” These themes, derived from her personal experience of loss and grief, have been a primary focus of her installation art and research. Kasumi’s work includes a variety of media—some ephemeral, some permanent. Her smaller scale projects include book art, video, and graphic design. Kasumi’s main work, focused on a memorial series, employs a ritualistic process of repetitive creative actions in which she makes handmade objects spontaneously and obsessively. The vast quantity of these small objects emphasizes the scale, concept, and tangible quality of the work. It also represents a therapeutic and redemptive process that reflects a personal struggle.
Kasumi’s creative journey centers on a search for that STILLNESS where time and physical space merge. Her creative and ritualist repetition methods offer a gateway to deeper awareness where her emotional response engages her in a new way—whether in a new place, or in some aspect of nature. The use of indigenous or everyday organic materials allows Kasumi to enter into a sacred space, the ancient home of her soul. Thus, exploring materials and accessing and interpreting a human response to nature allows Kasumi to express her inner voice in a variety of contexts and media.
Body of Work
Professor Kasumi’s solo and group exhibitions are many and broad in scope. They include galleries and educational institutions nationally and internationally. In Seattle, her exhibits and creative workshops have been enjoyed at the Wing Luke Asian Museum, the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) downtown, the SAM Asian Museum’s Gardner Center for Asian Arts & Ideas. Seattle Center, the University of Washington, and Seattle University have also exhibited her work, with some pieces conserved in Seattle University’s Special Collections at Lemieux Library.
Professor Kasumi’s exhibit sites also include Rochester, NY; Philadelphia, PA; Chicago, IL; Gainesville, GA; Denver, CO; and Anchorage, AK. Educational galleries and art centers in Portland and Eugene, Oregon have also hosted exhibitions.
Internationally, Kasumi has exhibited and permanently installed in Verona, Italy; Frankfurt, Germany; Budapest, Hungary; Brisbane and Sydney, Australia; Shanghai, China; New Delhi, India; and Ladyville, Belize. In Japan, her work has been exhibited in Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukushima. Kamaishi/Iwate, Nagano, Hyogo, Kagoshima, and many other cities.
Kasumi was Invited to be the artist-in-residence at the head temple of Soto-Zen, the Soji-ji Temple in Yokohama, Japan. There she presented her signature piece “Sarit” (Flow of Compassion) to celebrate the 650th anniversary of the Temple’s second Zen Master.
In 2019 Kasumi was invited to conduct a workshop and produce a large installation piece for a permanent collection at the Shanghai Institute of Visual Art, Shanghai, China. Its purpose was to raise awareness about ecological concerns and water pollution worldwide. In February 2020 Kasumi was invited to an exhibition entitled “Make Crises Visible,” a collection of activism art and design, hosted in Frankfurt, Germany, at SENCKENBERG Naturmuseum (Senckenberg Museum of Natural History).
Kasumi is currently both Professor of Design, and Director of the Design Program. She teaches most of the Programs’ graphic design courses, the Design Foundation and Senior Synthesis courses. Through her unique approach to design studio pedagogy, she educates the whole person. Students learn not only the skills needed by design professionals, but they also put their skills to use through service-learning projects that promote special events and increase visibility for campaigns that educate and raise awareness in the community. Students work in teams external to academia and simultaneously build their professional portfolios.
At Seattle University, Professor Kasumi created, and now directs, the Japan Program—a summer study-abroad Studio Art experience in Yokohama, Japan. In the past she also created and directed the Siena Program that was offered in Siena, Italy, for ten years. In both countries, students learn all aspects of book art, thanks to collaboration that includes Kasumi, local scholars, and hand-print artisans.
Giving her time to help others is part of Kasumi’s personal commitment, in addition to her academic work. She has traveled with Professionals Without Borders to assist with projects in Chikuni Mission, Zambia and led a team of student for a large installation art project in Ladyville, Belize.