Joy rarely motivates today's bleak art. But for Kana Harada, unencumbered happiness is the essence of her work.This Tokyo-born, self-taught artist was introduced to Western culture as a child. She describes her experiences in the West as "blissful." In fact, she credits our country with teaching her about freedom and fulfillment.

For Harada, being Japanese instilled the Eastern principles of simplicity, nature, and the universe. She makes birdcages - "mysterious, musical dwellings, more like wind chimes" - that are "not meant to capture birds. "Instead, she explains, they embody the spirit of life."

All these heady ideas are lovingly expressed in her soft foam sculptures. Taking inspiration from traditional Asian paper crafts such as senshi and kirigami, Harada wields her scissors with unwavering precision. The result is at once delicate and durable, iron-like and pliable. These inherent contradictions reflect her Eastern heritage, where harmony, not discord, is celebrated in such pairings.

From November 5 through December 23, Kana Harada will be the featured Mix! artist at The Dallas Center for Contemporary Art. It's her first one-woman show in Dallas, which she now calls her "hometown." But to be fair, she's already had successful solo exhibits in tokyo and New York.

When you see these captivating sculptures, you'll notice that there are no doors. It's easy to conjure cliches about being trapped, or free, or even lost, but don't succumb to such simple-mindedness. While Harada will explain that her "birds come and go as they please," she has created art far more evocative. In her world, inside is outside, there is music in emptiness, and every soul has a lovely place to call home.

( Courtesy of MILK VitaminD: local art information magazine in Dallas)