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Why Mako Fujimura Left New York City for the Country

Why Mako Fujimura Left New York City for the Country

The artist's move to Fuji farm follows a tradition of creatives finding new life away from bustling cities.

Cities have attracted artists, musicians, and writers for centuries. Patronage, an educated audience that values the arts, and, perhaps most important, a robust community of creative peers to encourage and challenge artistic practice, have made cities fundamental to the history of art.

However, the artists and writers I've been thinking about recently have, at crucial moments in their careers, left dynamic urban centers for the country. Herman Melville left Manhattan in 1850 for a 160-acre farm in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, that he called Arrowhead to write his masterpiece Moby-Dick; Norwegian painter Edvard Munch left Berlin and its fertile bohemian avant-garde community in 1909 for a solitary, rural life in his native Norway; Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock left New York City in the late 1940s for the rural setting of The Springs, Long Island, followed by friend Willem de Kooning in the late '50s. And many more—Henry David Thoreau, Robert Frost, Robinson Jeffers, Anselm Kiefer—have left the city to do their most important work.

And now Makoto Fujimura, after many years of working in and for New York City as an artist and creative catalyst, has moved his home and studio to an old farmhouse outside of Princeton, New Jersey, which he has come to call Fuji farm.

Because they deal in and work with the ineffable, ephemeral, and transitory states of experiences and feelings, artists are particularly shaped and affected by their environment. How has riding the subway numerous times each day over the last decade shaped Fujimura's thought patterns? How has painting in a small studio affected the scope of his work? And now, his thinking, reading, writing, and painting will be shaped by new stimuli and new hobbies, like long walks, early nights and early mornings, bird watching, building and shaping his studio, and the quiet.

What are we to make of this move of the artist from the city to the country, from the urban center to the rural periphery, from community to isolation?


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Displaying 1–5 of 7 comments

insik lion

October 16, 2012  9:52pm

yahoo! it's good to think if you are in a country far from the city, experienced the beauty of nature everything is fresh no polution and noise.


October 08, 2012  5:58pm

Princeton, NJ is hardly an example of rural America. Five minutes from downtown Princeton puts you in the middle of world-class bumper to bumper auto and truck traffic jams, pollution, shopping malls, and wall-to-wall office parks. Not a very contemplative area.

Daniel A. Siedell

October 02, 2012  1:15pm

Hey Jason, Thanks for noticing my error—I changed the location of Arrowhead. I think there are significant connections between artistic and scientific practice. An artist I worked closely with for over a decade was trained at Cornell and Berkeley in Quantum Mechanics, and approached painting in a particularly scientific manner. Heather, the stories of artists leaving the city for the country are too numerous to count. Both the city and the country are needed, in some way, I think. Tess, I think that's the question all artists (and creative human beings) ask. And we should be as creative in answering it as we are in our work. Where we do our work matters. Paul, Isolation is indeed a constant challenge. Yet isolation can also occur in the city. That Mako has kept his small studio in Manhattan, and is an active presence through his dealer, Valerie Dillon, and his brainchild, IAM, will be increasingly important.

Paul Hughes

September 25, 2012  10:59pm

In "Look Homeward, America" Bill Kauffman devotes several chapters to people who have done just this, including painter Grant Wood and (as mentioned above) poet (etc.) Wendell Berry. Dunno if it will effect the scope of Mako's work, since it already exists; but the value (and the dangers) of isolation for artists is a constant tension. For Christians as well, who long for their undiscovered country ... but serve in the city. I suggest George MacDonald's "Obedience" for more on this tension. [http://tinyurl.com/bqfl44k]

Jason Summers

September 25, 2012  5:22pm

In my experience, we scientists find (and have historically found) similar gains, though the viability of this tradition has faded as the cost and complexity of scientific work has increased. It remains a luxury for the well-established with an ability to reflect on prior experimental work or those who self finance (Wolfram and others). Perhaps this is not so different as it is for artists who often must remain in cities for the pragmatic need to ensure exposure until they have a measure of reputation. But, if so, it can be a danger. Great scientists sometimes did their most marginal work in such conditions. Isolation too easily breeds the temptation to indulge one's own "genius" unchecked. --- Also, Melville's farm was in Pittsfield, MA, though he spent time as a child in Lansingburgh (just North of Troy).


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