Chicago Painter Michiko Itatani Looks to the Cosmos for Inspiration

In postwar Japan, a child grew up wanting to write fiction. Instead, she came to Chicago and began to paint fiction.

Chicago-based artist Michiko Itatani creates artwork that is a combination of science fiction and fact.

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When “Chicago Tonight” paid a visit to a gallery to view Itatani’s work, it was closed and empty of people. Also lacking people is the work itself.

The unpopulated environments created by Itatani suggest settings for sci-fi stories, filled with rockets, planets, books and music. In short, art and science. The work is about inner space – and outer space.

“Outer space, all the way out there, we don’t know, but when you really think about it, you don’t know how your mind is working, and both are unknowns,” Itatani said.

As a child, she lived in Osaka, Japan, before she spent half a century in Chicago, teaching at the School of the Art Institute and painting.

Itatani sees her work as fiction that invites viewers to read things in their own way.

“In my youth, I wanted to be a fiction writer and somehow what I’m doing is using the painting language to write my fiction,” she said. “That means I’m inviting the viewer to participate and complete my painting.”

Look closely at some of her paintings and you’ll see the Hubble and Webb telescopes. She admits that she’s obsessed with deep space telescopes and their view of the cosmos.

“It’s a huge achievement for [humanity], but if you look at that cosmically, it’s a teeny little achievement,” she said.

Her artistry is curiosity – trying to know the unknown.

An important tool in her painting process is her optimism.

“It’s impossible to be optimistic but I want to be optimistic,” she says.

Her new show is called “Celestial Stages” and is running at the exhibition space Wrightwood 659, 659 W. Wrightwood, until Dec. 17.

Note: This article will be updated with video. 

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