Art of the Matter

<strong>Artist Amy Tanaka created the above clay work with her friend Carol Rasaphangthong as part of a project entitled “Cool Town Claymation: Ignite Change!
Artist Amy Tanaka created the above clay work with her friend Carol Rasaphangthong as part of a project entitled “Cool Town Claymation: Ignite Change!

Stephanie Raygoza
Staff Writer

Amy Tanaka’s art extends to various forms and means throughout Long Beach. From her promotional artwork for the nonprofit organization Green Long Beach to her sign art for the Trader Joe’s in Bixby Knolls, Tanaka continues to grow artistically and hopes to inspire other artists to branch out to a new art form she actively promotes— creative-reuse art.

<strong>Amy Tanaka's self-portrait</strong>
Amy Tanaka's self-portrait

The 27-year-old bartender has come to embrace the green movement through the years and has dedicated herself to designing and making such art. “I see creative-reuse art more as functional. I’m starting to draw myself more towards that because it’s something that people can use,” Tanaka said.
Some of her works include a coral reef piece for Green Long Beach’s Earth Day show that was made entirely out of used straws from the restaurant where she works, and most recently an art nouveau-inspired lamp made from the partitions that keep wine bottles in place.
“It’s a part of my values,” Tanaka said. “I’m putting my values into my work, and that way it’s something that I can share with other people because I know they’ll be able to use it too.”
Her personal art ranges between portrait and abstract paintings and sketches, and most recently handmade jewelry. She sees her paintings as more personal and something she’ll observe throughout her daily life put to canvas. During the holidays, she hopes to put together a holiday, creative-reuse-inspired art crafts show in conjunction with Green Long Beach as a way of encouraging the community to buy locally or from local artists as opposed to purchasing from retail outlets.
“Working with Green Long Beach is super grass roots, so everything that we do or everything we put out there either comes from us directly. It’s one way of marketing and showing people that, ‘Hey, you can market using these materials as well,'” she said. Her side projects include working for “Cool Town Claymation: Ignite Change!” which was a video project collaboration she did with her friend, Carol Rasaphangthong. She created and designed mini clay sculptures to be used for different sets (including the one featured on the front page of this issue).
Although her art esthetic may be split between two forms— personal and creative reuse— she sees them moving toward something that can eventually educate people. “Creative-reuse art totally gives others a whole new outlook on what is art and what you can use to create art, so I like it a little bit more as an educational tool,” Tanaka said.
She wears multiple hats that include creating graphic-design logos and banners for clients, live art paintings for Tinderbox!, managing her Etsy account, and even creating tattoo designs for friends. “I kind of spread myself everywhere rather than focusing on one type of art or one type of idea,” Tanaka said. “I don’t limit myself to anything at all and want to be creative in all aspects.”
Her primary focus still remains with working for Green Long Beach, which continues to fuel her passion for the environment.
“I don’t know where [my work] is going to take me job-wise, but at least I know that if I love it, a job will follow,” Tanaka said. “It’s stuff that people home-make that’s random and creative— it’s inspiring. The most mundane things sitting in your house can turn into an awesome project that no one’s ever thought of before.”
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