Q&A With New York City-Based Artist Yuko Kyutoku

The inspiration behind Yuko Kyutoku’s art spans from Japan to New York City.
Currently based in New York, she was born in Gifu and grew up in Aichi, Japan.
According to her website, “Having grown up next to both nature with mountains and rivers, and urban areas, her love of nature and the outdoors grew tremendously. Throughout her life, Yuko has always been fascinated by images and how the world is represented through the eyes of others. Also, she was born into a doctor’s family that appreciates art, and her grandmother was also an artist who exhibited her works throughout Japan. Naturally, she was drawn to drawings and paintings.”

Painting by Yuko Kyuto.

Her passion for art continued on into her young-adulthood. She completed her Associates degree in Visual Arts at Westchester Community College, and then her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art and Masters degree in Art Therapy at New York University in 2022.
Today, she works at a children’s hospital where she serves children with disabilities and provide various recreational therapy sessions for them to support their well-being and developmental needs. She provides four group sessions per day and documentation as well as preparing and creating other artworks to be displayed in the unit of the hospital. She did not provide the name of the hospital.

 Q: Long Island Weekly: What inspires you so much about American culture? I also see that in your art, you like to infuse your Japanese background with American inspiration. Would you say that’s accurate?
A: Yuko Kyutoku: “I grew up watching American movies and listening to American music, including Elvis Presley, Madonna, Janis Joplin, and James Brown. I personally think the elements of free expression and authenticity speak to me the most. Each artist expresses their backgrounds, beliefs, and values authentically, and I really like that. It impacted me a lot during my teenage years. I would say my art expresses more about myself than it focuses on cultural aspects. I am not really thinking about expressing or incorporating Japanese and/or American influences in my art, so much as these aspects come up naturally. As a Japanese person living in New York, it is natural that my work reflects both cultural aspects without my express intention. My work always reflects what I like, value, and believe at the time of its creation, so I would say my art reflects more about where I am in my life than it does my background. I see art as a personal journal or recording process that like snapshots reflect what I do and what my interests are in the individual moments of my life.”

Q: Long Island Weekly: What’s your favorite art form? How do you find time to do art when you’re a busy art therapist in New York City?
A: Kyutoku: “I enjoy painting and drawing the most. My art style is a combination of both painting and drawing. I use papers and create gouache paintings. I then use gel pens, markers, or pastels to create textures. I also enjoy exploring some pigments, such as marble powders and glitters. I regularly create art when I have time, and I also do visual journals where I process my experiences with my clients. As an art therapist, art making is required for my profession, however, it is also something that brings me joy. Dedicating myself to visual journaling and an art-making practice help me to process, ground myself, and gather ideas and perspectives for upcoming sessions, thus I create art whenever I get the chance. I sometimes create art after I get home and on weekends. It is not only my professional practice but also one of my hobbies.”

Q: Long Island Weekly: What keeps you in New York City?

A: Kyutoku: “I enjoy being in New York City because of the various opportunities and the high quality of education that I can receive. I would say that I can receive great psychotherapy training and resources in New York City, which I enjoy the most. I am always eager to study something new and look for new therapy training to expand my skills. For instance, recently I took a sound bath workshop in the city, and it was an interesting experience that I will probably want to add it to my art therapy practice in the future.”

Q: Long Island Weekly: In what ways would you say art therapy helps people? How has it helped you?
A: Kyutoku: “Art therapy can address various issues, including PTSD, trauma, anxiety, family conflicts, and others. Art therapists use patients’ free-form art and creative expressions to encourage them to share and talk about the artwork they made and to begin to look within themselves for meaning and insight. Art therapists use both creative expression and talk therapy and other modalities to help people deal with unresolved emotions, increase self-awareness and reflection, increase self-worth, and decrease stress and other emotional issues and disorders. I found art and creative expression helped clients work through strong emotions in a non-harmful way.”

Q: Long Island Weekly: Is it hard to leave home behind to live abroad? What do you miss most about your home in Japan? What were your favorite parts about growing up there?
AKyutoku: “Adjusting to American culture is of course challenging, and there are many things that one must learn in order to finish school and thrive at work. New York is similar to my hometown in Japan, which is why I like living here. I sometimes miss the Japanese food I grew up with… My favorite part about growing up is the many opportunities I’ve had to expand my skills and knowledge and grow as a person. Since New York is very diverse and I am able to meet people from so many different cultures, which is a life-changing experience, I definitely think that the diversity inspires me to think and live in richer ways.”

—To view Kyutoku’s art, visit www.yukokyutoku.com.

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