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Masumi Memories

Four area institutions celebrate the work of the Cleveland artist shot and killed last year by her neighbor in a dispute over noise.

Time has not dulled the shock of artist Masumi Hayashi’s death more than a year ago. She entered this world at the epicenter of an ugly chapter in American history and left this world through an act of senseless violence. Shot by her neighbor in a dispute over a noise complaint, Hayashi left an enormous void, especially in the Cleveland art scene.

“She was spectacular,” says Susan Channing, outgoing director of SPACES Gallery, where Hayashi exhibited her work, and served on the board for “seven dedicated years fighting for artists’ rights, against censorship, for peace and human rights.”

While Hayashi’s politics are embedded in her art, Channing says she created “morally serious work that also succeeded aesthetically.”

This is no small feat. Hayashi’s work is paradoxical. Her photographic treatment of repugnant places made them beautiful. Her lyrical, panoramic views of specific locations belie their often horrific past. She rendered the killing fields in Cambodia into lovely, benign landscapes of hills and trees. Her series on EPA Superfund sites is equally beguiling: beneath a veneer of green are mountains of poison. The images she created from abandoned prison psychiatric units are hauntingly graceful. Wherever she focused her camera, she captured places that bear the hard stamp of human history.

In a rare partnering and show of community spirit, four area institutions mount nearly simultaneous exhibitions of Hayashi’s work later this month. The newly reopened Akron Art Museum, SPACES Gallery, Cleveland State University Art Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland will devote space in their galleries for different stages of Hayashi’s work.

Check back Oct. 1 for the full story

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