Mary Jo Matsumoto’s latest landscape and portrait paintings disrupted by Superflat imagery explore her disconnection from Japanese culture and traditions. As a third-generation mixed-race Japanese American woman, Matsumoto expresses feelings and ideas about the assumptions often made about her ‘exotic’ identity because of her name and body in a society that both celebrates its diversity and has deeply rooted problems with racism, internal and external. Her work speaks of her childhood saturated with American pop culture almost totally devoid of any reference to her Japanese roots. Her knowledge of Japan has come in adulthood via the distorted prism of American consumer culture: bright and impersonal pop art baubles, fashion tee shirts, and kawaii toys that are far removed from the meanings and values inherent in traditional Japanese art and artifacts.
Matsumoto grew up in southern California in the 1970s with the dark shadow of recent American history ever-present but unspoken of in her family. As Japanese Americans, her father and his parents lost everything when they were interned as prisoners in the US during WWII. After the war her father worked hard to assimilate, later minimizing his children's Japanese heritage so they would stand a better chance of success in the country where he was born and raised. Matsumoto’s work draws on her observations of the shame that leads to family secrets and the unspoken past, as well as her own experiences of being the target of casual racism. But her work is also hopeful and forward-looking, celebrating the vibrant Japanese American culture of today as she connects the past with the present to explore complex histories and identities.
When not making art, Matsumoto is the editor of FoxandBunny.net, where she interviews inspiring artists, curators, and collectors. She lives and works in Laguna Niguel, California.
2020-2021 Studied with Joshua La Rock
2018-2020 Art Students League of New York
2018-2020 Studied with Jennifer Gennari
2017-2018 Angel Academy of Art, Florence, Italy
2015 Art Students League NYC
New York University, MFA Tisch School of the Arts
University of California Berkeley, Double BA with highest honors.
2019 Red Dot Winner (Best in Show), Art Students League of New York, Group Bronze Show
2015 Blue Dot Winner, Art Students League of New York, Group Bronze Show
2022 The de Young Museum in San Francisco, Pictures of People group show in tandem with Alice Neel, People Come First exhibition.
2022 California Inclined: Robert Graham, Larry Cohen, Don Bachardy, Mary Jo Matsumoto, Holly Williams at DANIEL MOSHI gallery, Los Angeles, California
2022 PANDEMIC at Sol Art Gallery, Dublin, Ireland.
2021 Arts to Hearts Project, Gaze, International Exhibition with 30 Women Artists
2019 Art Students League of New York, Group Bronze Show
2015 Art Students League of New York, Group Bronze Show
2015 Art Students League of New York, Group Drawing Show.
2014 Luhring Augustine, NYC, Visual Aids Post Cards From the Edge, “Woman in an Alexander McQueen Scarf”.
Arts to Hearts Project GAZE exhibition catalogue