SERVICES > Governor's Arts Awards > 2012 GAA Award Winners
2012 GAA Outstanding Artist Award
Jun Kaneko (Omaha)
Jun Kaneko was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1942 and, displaced shortly thereafter by war, lived alone in the mountains with his Samurai descendant grandparents. In his adolescence, his mother discovered piles of drawings in his room and, recognizing his passion to create, she placed him under the tutelage of
painter Satoshi Ogawa. By twenty-one, he expressed his curiosity to study beyond strict Japanese art schools to his mentor. Accompanied only by his culturally maligned independent streak and native tongue, he arrived in Los Angeles in 1963.
Kaneko boarded with Fred and Mary Marer, passionate collectors of contemporary ceramic sculpture and close friends to the artists. His hosts brought him on visits to artists’ studios and invited him to experiment one week with Paul Soldner at Scripps College. These interactions drew him to pursue its study and he devoted himself to further investigate ceramics’ possibilities with Peter Voulkos, Paul Soldner, John Mason and Jerry Rothman during the time now defined as The Contemporary Ceramics Movement in America.
He later taught at some of the nation’s leading art schools, including Scripps College, Rhode Island School of Design and Cranbrook Academy of Art. He first worked in Omaha, Nebraska by invitation in 1981 from his now wife Ree Kaneko to create experimental work at an industrial brick factory. In that energetic and supportive environment, he challenged himself to create his first large scale Dangos. Based in Omaha since 1986, he has progressively renovated a complex of seven warehouses into ceramics, painting and design studios.
Kaneko has worked at several experimental studios as well and independently orchestrated three multi-year collaborations with industrial ceramics manufacturers to realize larger-scale hand-built sculptures at their facilities; the former in 1982-1983 with the Omaha Brick Works for his Omaha Project and the latter two with Mission Clay Products in 1992-1994 at his Fremont Project in California and in 2004-2007 at his Pittsburg Project in Kansas.
Jun’s current production design of Mozart’s Magic Flute for the San Francisco Opera was preceded by his critically acclaimed production design of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, premiering at Opera Omaha in 2006, touring steadily since, and his bold and refreshing design of Beethoven’s Fidelio in 2008 for the Opera Company Philadelphia.
A self-described studio artist, his keen awareness of architecture, scale and appreciation of chance encounters with art consistently engage him in public art commissions. His artwork appears in numerous international and national solo and group exhibitions annually, and is included in more than seventy museum collections. He has realized over thirty public art commissions and is the recipient of national, state and organization fellowships and honorary doctorates. (You can read Jun’s full resumé at www.junkaneko.com)
In 2000, wanting to share creative opportunities, Jun and Ree Kaneko formed a non-profit scholarly and presenting organization, KANEKO, dedicated to the exploration of creativity in the arts, sciences and philosophy. Programming includes its Experimental Studio, supporting projects of accomplished and emerging creatives individually and in cooperation. For more information please visit www.thekaneko.org.