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As a child in Japan, Kazuyo Hira was exposed to American culture through movies, TV, and magazines. She was mesmerized by the differences in the cultures. "Americans are independent and individualistic. No one wants to fit into the same box, but the Japanese are raised to fit in." They are taught to show courtesy in every exchange, from how to bow, to how to receive a business card. Creating harmony is of utmost importance.

To master the English language, Kazuyo came to the U.S. to study. While her enjoyment in the creation of art was great, the idea of a career as an artist was never a consideration. Once here, however, mixing with the extroverted Americans and experiencing our intellectual freedom, she decided to take her Art seriously.

When investigating where to further her studies, she heard about the "great national reputation of FSU's Department of Art." During an initial visit, she viewed graduating students' artwork. "Many of the oil paintings were breath taking. Unique and contemporary, yet still within the traditional realm. This balance between now-and-then was something I was looking for."

"I employ a unique style," she says, "shaped by my experiences of traditional and pop Japanese culture, to explore qualities of Eastern and Western cultures." Currently, her works—wood that is cut, shaped and colored, thereby creating three-dimensional paintings—are abstract and centered in Buddhism. "Buddhist practitioners seek spiritual enlightenment through various methods, including Zazen, the rigorous discipline of sitting in meditation for hours. Art, for me, provides this discipline, where I empty my mind and concentrate on living in the now. I want my artwork to function as a medium through which the colors and shapes work together naturally, in the Buddhist spirit, and touch the viewer's psyche on a primal level, both familiar and alien."

Kazuyo recently received a University Fellowship, "a wonderful acknowledgement as an artist." Once her thesis is complete, she will return to teaching undergraduates. "I receive great fulfillment in sharing my culture and passing my knowledge of art to the next generation." It has been her graduate experience here at FSU that has cemented her decision to teach. Here, "My life is completely centered and dedicated to art. I am surrounded by inspiration, with all of us working toward the same goal: to become a better artist."

Asked if there is anything Americans can learn from the Japanese, Kasuyo replies, "Definitely, customer service." Ah, the flip side of our independent spirit. But, if she stays, her dedication to creating harmony may well have a positive effect on us.

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