Preview: Erika Sanada – Fighting Spirit @ Modern Eden Gallery [SF]


Tokyo-born, Erika Sanada crafts beautifully intricate ceramic work, infusing striking realism with a tender, welcoming, sense of comfort and fragility, while balancing it with the unnervingly macabre.

That above quote is one that I originally used as part of the introduction to our preview of Odd Things, Sanada‘s 2013 debut solo exhibit at the Modern Eden gallery.  This Saturday, August 15th, exactly 2 years to the date of when we published that post, the sculptor returns to the San Francisco Gallery with a brand new collection of work titled Fighting Spirit and, while that original descriptor definitely still resonates in these pieces, which continue to center around otherworldly canine-like creatures, there is also a clear evolution that has taken place.  Perhaps the biggest shift has been in the “unnerving” aspect of her pieces, with the characters rendered for Fighting Spirit feeling much more inviting, albeit mystically so.  The artist’s “early inspirations stemmed from creatures and characters of Horror films” and that influence is clearly still present, but her figures draw the viewer in more than ever, this time around, with the feeling of apprehension becoming slightly more dissipated.

The same things that surprised me about Sanada‘s work when I was first introduced to it remain; her ability to draw such life and variation of texture and movement out of such a rigid medium continue to impress me.  And then there’s her brilliantly tasteful and minimalistic glazing technique, which works to achieve those results and which I believe must be, at least partially, informed by her previous work in both commercial illustration and movie studio makeup artistry.  Her abilities were admirable before, but the new exhibit operates as evidence that, over the last couple of years, her technique with the colorization of her pieces has, noticeably, gotten even better and become that much more effective.

What I truly appreciate about what we’re seeing with Fighting Spirit is that, although Erika has created her own world and continues to revisit her trademark dog-like entities that inhabit it, I truly believes that she is expanding upon her universe and exploring its possibilities, rather than simply treading water.  The work that we’ve witnessed of Sanada‘s, whether it be through Odd Things; her contributions to groups exhibits like last year’s Double-Parlour curated Zealot’s Elixer show at the gallery; or through her features in various publications,; the sculptor primarily focuses on creating individual figures.  While I know that there is definitely a specific customer base for the collection of figures — the endless vinyl toy collectors being one example — it feels like particular obstacles are inherent when it comes to displaying such 3-dimensional character-based art.  With Fighting Spirit, however, I believe that all that these pieces really require to be showcased at their full potential is space to breathe.  The way in which she crafts them suggests larger scenes, beyond the individual creatures; an implication of a much more expansive environment that the mind is prompted to organically manifest a ghostly outline for on its own, when presented with them.  These aren’t just little characters that the artist is sculpting, there are full on narratives and miniature worlds that are swirling around them and there’s something that undeniably magical about that.

The following is a statement from Erika Sanada elaborating on her intention behind Fighting Spirit, and her work, in general.

Exhibition Statement from the Artist: My sculptural work explores my  anxieties. Early childhood experiences  drove me to doubt my self-esteem, developing  into a state of  worry and distress. To cope with these emotions, my parents gave me a dog and he became a great companion. I use the imagery of dogs in my work to represent the joy in life. However, underlying that happiness, I incorporate odd features into my dogs like extra teeth or ears to symbolize those lingering anxieties. Much like myself, my work is struggling  to find a balance between joy and sorrow.


Check out preview images for the exhibit below the following event details…



Fighting Spirit:
solo exhibit by Erika Sanada



Saturday, August 15th
, 2015



Modern Eden Gallery
403 Francisco Street (@Powell)
San Francisco, CA 94133



Opening is ALL AGES w/NO COVER
Erika Sanada
will be in attendance
Exhibit will be on view until September 5th, 2015. 
Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10am – 6pm
Facebook Event Page:

Traveling Mates

Feeling Apologetic

Bad Blood

Hunting Season



All Dried Out,

Fighting Spirit

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it's hard to recall all of the details. "I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn't actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room... but it wasn't actually here... it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle."

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