Honoring The Artist: Lynn Matsuoka

Lynn Matsuoka

This week’s cover, “Big Sky Grazing,” is by Lynn Matsuoka, a unique artist who has a “light” touch with “heavy” (substantial) subjects, like horses, Sumo wrestlers and Kabuki theatre actors. Such figures share a common bond: their potent sense of movement. Capturing movement on a two-dimensional surface has often been a very challenging task for visual artists, but Matsuoka is an expert. Her technique of reportage makes her an expert as well when she gives the viewers a behind-the-scenes look at her special worlds.

Matsuoka’s use of medium (oil and graphite on archival paper) may account for the delicate style that renders her reportage not quite real, but mysterious and even mythical, capturing the tradition and archetypes of her horses, wrestlers and Kabuki performers. There is something eternal about Matsuoka’s works, which reverberates in a viewer’s memory.

Q: Your interests are so varied. Take horses, for example. That interest has been with you since you were a young girl.

A: When I was 12 or so, I used to go riding with my father. When I moved back to this area from Japan three years ago, I used to get up early and draw the horses and sometimes their riders at the Hampton Classic. Horses have such beautiful forms; I try and capture that.

Q: How about your penchant for Sumo wrestlers?

A: I went to Japan for a six-month assignment as a fashion illustrator and ended up staying for 37 years. I was impressed with the glitz and glamour of the Sumo wrestling world. I was attracted to it like a moth to a flame. I got a high-level introduction to a well-known wrestler and was able to draw him backstage.

Q: I know you said you gave lectures on Sumo wrestling in Japan. Who was your audience and what did you tell them?

A: I changed the lecture, according to who I was talking to. If I lectured to a ladies group, I would discuss how men developed their bodies, how they turn their bodies into sculpture. For the Deutsche Bank, I talked about the financial part.

Q: And your introduction to Kabuki Theatre?

A: I also got a high-level introduction and worked with various actors for 20 years. I remember one actor would put me in the rafters when the performers were on stage. I was stuffed in a crevice, standing on one foot, It was like I was in Cirque du Soleil.

Q: How in the world did you get to that point of going to Japan in the first place?

A: I had art training at The Tyler School (Temple University) and the School for Visual Arts, but it was at Visual Arts that I learned reportage from my teacher Jack Potter. I was hired by CBS to do court drawings, but I had the chance to go to Japan on a short assignment. CBS said to go to Japan first. Just think, if I had come back from Japan, I would have covered the first Watergate Trial.

Q: What are some of your on-going projects now?

 A: I will be going to London to do drawings of actor Don Hodge to document his rehearsals for a play. I really like to work in the theatre. I will also be doing an image for the U.S. Tennis Association (a montage of tennis pros) and a montage of Derek Jeter. Jeter’s piece will be in my show at the Delaney Cooke Gallery in Sag Harbor in September.

Q: What are your plans for the future? How might you change your style?

A: I want to leave the box I am sitting in. I can say, “I’ve done that.” I want to break out. I am a conservative person. Everything I have done is literal. I want to be more painterly.


An exhibit by Lynn Matsuoka will be at Delaney Cooke Gallery, 17 Madison Street, Sag Harbor, September 2-6. The opening is September 3. She will have an open house at her studio at 221 Snake Hollow Road, Bridgehampton, on Saturday, July 23, and Sunday, July 24, from noon to 5 p.m. Also on view will be birdhouses and feeding tables by British furniture maker Keith Barker, www.hamptonsartist.com. 631-537-5237. 

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