PDP: Tatsuki Hakoyama, “Searching for the Middle Path”


Section: Embracing the Life of the University

This past Wednesday, September 14, from 4-5:15pm, I attended a presentation by CMU Alumnus Tatsuki Hakoyama. Originally, the presentation and succeeding gander at his artwork ran into the time that I was scheduled for my Creative Bootcamp class, but I emailed my professor asking if I could be excused from class to attend, and the entirety of the class ended up going in traditional Kanye ‘ain’t-nobody-messing-with-my-clique’ fashion – which was even better than my imagined ideal scenario. We arrived at Park Library in small groups around 3:45pm, fifteen minutes before the presentation began in the auditorium, and waited for the rest of our group to congregate in our presence. While we waited, I meandered on over to a board that announced the program for the day. I took a few inadequate selfies next to it, until a woman exited the auditorium, saw my futile attempts at photography, and offered to take the photo for me. It ended up a lot better than my selfies. So much so that I will not provide a comparison photo.

Thank you, kind woman.

Once we all gathered in the auditorium, Hakoyama began his dissertation. He explained how the title of his exhibited pieces in their organized entirety was Searching for the Middle Path, and how it was his goal to show the contrast of traditional cultures and their symbols with the current state of environmental affairs. A budding Buddhist, I was drawn to everything about the project. Originally, it was the similarity to Buddha’s philosophy of following the middle path to reach enlightenment that got me engaged (in broader terms, that balance is the key to life), but the relation to our environment and how it effects cultures really got me digging in.

At the beginning, the artist spoke mostly about his inspiration, Surrealists such as René Magritte and Salvador Dalí. He also brought up an art style called Mystic Realism that had strongly influenced his art, and there was one man who had some very interesting commentary on the state of Japanese culture whose name alludes me and will not appear on Google.

The biggest influence on his art, however, was Hakoyama’s relation and assimilation into three very different cultures. Born a Japanese citizen, Hakoyama moved to Samoa with his family at age eight and was exposed to the way of life that was so typical of Samoan culture – and how different it was from the life he had left. A number of years later, his family uprooted again and decided to move to the Americas. They chose to settle down in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, and Hakoyama graduated from the local high school with his sights set on Central Michigan University. The collection of all three cultures is apparent in his work, and they blend together beautifully in a unique way, reminiscent of the way dreams build upon each other and have meaning once you are able to dig deeper into yourself.

Fortunately, we were provided, as onlookers, a lovely little flyer that explained some of the cultural concepts reflected in the artwork:


When his keynote came to a close, the artist opened the auditorium for questions. I was curious as to how he came up with the name for his works, seeing as he hadn’t explained it at all, which was in dire contrast to the deep account of his cultural history and both aesthetic and psychological inspiration.  I raised my hand very quickly and asked, “Is the title of you work inspired by anything spiritual?” Hakoyama responded by confirming my assumption that it was inspired by the middle path that Buddha pioneered and how the Buddha wasn’t a god but just a person who made the right decisions (the difficult and trying decisions) to become an enlightened individual.

During the period when the audience was excused and allowed into the exhibition room to examine the entirety of his works, I came across Hakoyama and asked him why he didn’t make time in his presentation to explain the account for the title of his pieces. He told me that there would be too many questions involved, that it would take up too much time, and I understood completely. In our American culture, we take interest in what we find different in others, but sometimes we take too much time wondering why we have those differences.

All in all, the artist’s work was unlike anything I had seen before. I would highly recommend attending an exhibition of his work if you ever get the chance, because no pictures can capture all the minute detail within these pieces.


These photos I took don’t even do other photos justice (thanks, iPhone), but it gives you a basic understanding of the vision Hakoyama intended. I would like to reiterate once more that, should this exhibition travel near you, I highly recommend your attendance. It will challenge you in abstract and realistic thought and was a fantastic experience.

Much love,


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