The Art of Butoh

A metal welding artist maintains his technique against incredible odds; a Butoh practitioner explores the connection between emotion and movement; a visit to an artist's studio reveals a passion for ancient mythology; and another tricks the eye into seeing colorful, dynamic movement in her optical art.

AIRED: September 15, 2018 | 0:26:46

>> male announcer: In this

edition of "KPBS Arts," welding

against the odds.

>> Gary Hovey: I can either just

lay down and give up or I can

just keep moving, you know, and

I've decided that I'm gonna keep


>> announcer: Reenvisioning

modern dance.

>> Gadu Doushin: Western dance

resonate with strength of human

body, and Butoh actually

resonates with weakness.

>> announcer: Tricking the eyes

with art.

>> Susie Rosmarin: It's just a

very simple number game.

>> announcer: And painting with


>> Andrea Durfee: I let my

subconscious take over and I pay

more attention to the inner


>> announcer: It's all ahead in

this episode of "KPBS Arts."


>> BJ Robinson: Hello, I'm BJ

Robinson and this

is "KPBS Arts."

You can find forks, spoons, and

knives welded together in Gary

Hovey's unique animals


While Hovey enjoys his craft,

maintaining his technique is

becoming a greater

challenge every day.

>> Gary: I have art in my

background, but not like college

or anything like that.

When I was younger, I was into

doing clay work.

And then when we moved to Tulsa,

Oklahoma, I went and saw John at

his fine arts foundry.

I did that for several years and

I was in charge of the metal

shop in the foundry, so I

learned how to weld there.

First I saw John Kearney's work,

where he took bumper ends and

welded them together and made

animals that were large.

We saw his work in Wichita,

Kansas 35 years ago.

I was a teenager at the time and

I didn't know how to weld.

I thought it was a great idea.

But then I forgot about it, and

one day I thought of it again

and I told my wife, I said, "I'm

gonna buy some flatware and try

that idea that I had 30 years


And she said, "Yeah."

So, I went and did it and I made

a dog.

>> Tonnie Hovey: The first one

he did was quite good.

It's a little running dog.

He said he ran like a freight


He really had a knack right from

the very beginning for capturing

the character of an animal.


>> Gary: I have early onset

Parkinson's disease.

And I just had a little twitchy

finger, and I went in to try to

figure out what was going on

with me.

They came out with, "You have


So, I've dealt with this

for 21 years.

It really is kind of a problem

'cause I can't move fast.

I'm a freezer.

I'm not a shaker really.

I can't move once I freeze, and

so then I either lay down or

just quit doing whatever I'm

trying for awhile, and then I go

back to it.

So, I can get like 4 hours to 6

hours on a good day of work.

And I can either just lay down

and give up or I can just keep

moving, you know?

And I've decided that I'm gonna

keep moving.

>> Tonnie: For Gary, physically

dealing with the Parkinson's

disease is a big deal.

There have been several times

when it's just come to be, like,

"Maybe this is it.

Maybe I'm gonna have to quit."

He would just be at a really low

point and then we'll manage to

work through it.

>> Gary: I think my wife is just

the greatest.

She critiques my work, supports

my work.

She drives me everywhere I need

to go and she takes care of my

Internet stuff.

She communicates with people.

She's my banker.

She's everything, and so I

couldn't do it without her.

I really couldn't.

>> Tonnie: It's just there are

some things that Gary doesn't

find easy to do anymore.

I encourage him a lot 'cause

there is times when he just

feels like things aren't going

as well as he liked and he

doesn't see the point anymore.

Whatever he needs, I try to be

in tune to that and help him

with it.

He says it's not done until I

give it my final approval.

>> Gary: Make sure they're all

stuck on there too.

>> Gary: Now, the first place

I'll start, is like on a heron

for instance, he comes off a

base, I'll make that first leg,

straighten that, work on making

everything centered, and I try

to make the piece from the head


If I make the head and the head

I like, then I'll finish the


I put the forks and spoons on

top of this cage I built in

there in the body shape.

I limit myself to forks, knives,

and spoons.

I could do it with other pieces

of metal, but I don't.

It adds a uniqueness to it, you


And so, I do have to use new

flatware sometimes, but it is

less than 2%.

Everything else is used


I try to keep it eco-friendly

that way.

I'll see an animal on TV or in a

magazine, and I'll go, "Wow,

that's a cool animal.

I think I'll try and build one

of those."

Or I'll see in my mind what

flatware to use for an animal.

I try to get the animal to look

like what I think the animal

would look like.

I also try to put what I call

attitude into my pieces.

I did a family of gorillas.

I tried to make the baby look

like he's having fun.

Or you look at the heron, and he

looks like he's gonna do

something to you because you're

bothering him.

It's just the cock of the head a

little bit.

>> Tonnie: I think people are

drawn to Gary's work because

it's not expected.

They can't really figure out how

he did it.

How did he get a face out of

forks, knives, and spoons?

And they start looking at the

individual pieces

that are in it.

And maybe they see Grandma's

pattern in it or a pattern that

they have, and they start

enjoying just looking at the

textures and the way they work


>> Gary: I've got a condition

that I'm still able to produce

stuff, and I enjoy that respect.

You know, even though I've got

Parkinson's disease, I haven't

given up and I'm not gonna give

up 'til, you know--'til I have

to, you know?

This is, like--I'll keep doing


As long as it keeps selling,

I'll keep making 'em.

And as long as people keep

thinking I have nice artwork,

then I'll keep going.

>> BJ: To see more of Gary

Hovey's artwork, check out his

website at

And now, here's

a look at arts events

happening this week near you.

>> BJ: After studying

engineering at the University of

Minnesota, Gadu Doushin pursued

his passion for dance.

He traveled back to his native

country of Japan to practice


See how this performing art

explores the connection between

emotion and movement.


>> Gadu: There's no good, or

bad, or right, or wrong way of

experiencing Butoh.

It's just experience.


>> Gadu: Enjoy whatever you


Enjoy if it's uncomfortableness.

You can enjoy uncomfortableness,

sadness, or fear.

Our society has so much dogma

about feelings.

Everybody's supposed to be just

happy and joyful, or just not

feel anything, you know?


>> Gadu: But without feeling,

without noticing what you are

feeling and actually confronting

and dealing with it, it's almost

like not really living.


>> Gadu: Butoh is Japanese

contemporary performance art

form that started in late '50s.

French surrealism was coming to


There was Dadaism and all these

contemporary art was coming into


When Butoh first started, it was

more of an anti-traditional and

anti-establishment movement.

They were trying to create

different way of approaching the

body and approaching movement.

The Butoh in itself doesn't have

its own form or technique,

per se.

Butoh is more of, like,


Western dance resonates with

strength of human body and Butoh

actually resonates with weakness

of body.

In the early '60s, there was a

big problem with mercury

poisoning in Japan.

Mercury poisoning actually make

your joint and body kinda shrink

and they basically kind of

become like this, and Butoh kind

of captured that kind of a


Butoh performance can be very,

very slow, controlled movement,

twisted facial expressions.

It's almost like the people

watching are just going into a

hypnosis or fall asleep,

whichever comes first.

Ha ha ha ha.


>> Gadu: I was born in a little

town called Rokugo.

When I was nine years old, I saw

"West Side Story" on TV and I

decided I want to be a dancer.

When I graduate University of

Minnesota, I start working for

Ragamala Music and Dance


Bharatanatyam, the first Indian

classical dance, is very strict.

All the shapes of body, where

the finger is, the angle,

everything have to be perfect.

I just start wondering who

decide what looks good.

Maybe each person have their own

movement in their body, and

what's wrong with that?

Subbody Butoh was developed by

my teacher, Rhizome Lee.

Subbody means subconscious body.

I went to study with Rhizome Lee

in 2007.

From 10:00 to 5:00 every day,

five days a week, all I had to

do was dance Butoh.

That's it.

That was amazing.

And when I came back, I just

felt completely disconnected, so

I had to do something.

So, that's kind of how I start


In Subbody Butoh, we actually go

into our subconscious and let

the movement come to surface.

So, it's very free.

Like, each Butoh practitioner

has their own way of approaching

Butoh, so each person's body is


Even there's a saying, kind of

an instruction or a stimulus:

everybody's movement different.


>> Gadu: I think when you

practice Subbody Butoh, you

really get in touch with the

things inside, but at the same

time, you get in touch with

everything outside and you learn

everything is connected.

Everything is resonated.

In physics as well, everything

is energy.

It's just how the energy

organize or reorganize,

different resonance patterns,

and that's what makes us us,

what makes light, or air, or

everything else.


>> Gadu: When we are connecting

in the level of a perception

about what we are and what

others, the sense of separation


You actually feel more


You feel more connected.


>> BJ: Want to learn more about


Head to


>> BJ: Strong Greek goddesses

like Athena and Persephone

inspire Rochester, New York

artist Andrea Durfee.

We go inside her studio to see

how ancient mythology is

reflected in her watercolor

paintings and everyday life.


>> Andrea: I grew up loving

stories, loving mythology.

I loved anything that had strong

characters that could overcome,

that seemed to be able to

control their environment, but

at the same time have those very

human qualities.

Currently, I've been focusing on

watercolor figures that are

incorporated into landscapes.

They are a lot of references to

Persephone, or Athena, or

different--Demeter, different

type of goddesses that hold

close to my heart

from growing up.

I use mythology and storytelling

in a way that helps me process

experiences and emotions that I

go through in my daily life.

The process of creating, it's a

ritual at this point.

I have, you know, a really set

flow to how I do create.

And while I come to the paper

with a set idea, once that

creation process is underway, I

really kind of go blank.

I let my subconscious take over.

I don't try and force the paint

or interpret too much, and I pay

more attention to the inner

dialogue and the dialogue

between myself and the painting.


>> Andrea: My style of looking

at things, it's fragmented.

You know, what are the

fragments, what are the pieces

that make up the whole?

It's a lot of putting together

and taking apart, putting

together, taking apart.


>> Andrea: What are my actions

on this painting?

How is that reflective of the

issue that I'm struggling with?

It's that conversation.

It's, you know, asking question.

Like, ooh, I really like how

this paint splattered that way.

Well, why did I like that?

Like, why was it that, you know,

that kind of erraticness, that

it just kind of jumped, why did

I like that?

So, I'm always asking myself

questions while I'm creating.


>> Andrea: I hope that when

someone approaches my work and

looks at it, I hope that they

take a walk through it.

I hope that they look and kind

of see the little fragments, you

know, what are the pieces that

make up the whole, and kind of

take a journey through that



>> BJ: For more information,


And now, here's

a look at what's happening

in the arts in your community.

>> BJ: Artist Susie Rosmarin is

the creator behind an intricate

collection of optical art.

Based in Houston, Texas, she

uses mathematical equations to

trick the eye into seeing

colorful, dynamic movement.

Here's a look.


>> Susie: I mean, that sort of

transcendence, I think, is

something that we all are often

always looking for, whether

we're finding it in love, or in

some sort of spiritual search.

I happen to look for it in art.

When I was living in New York

and there was a big Monet

retrospective, and I was looking

at the Cathedral short series,

and they were just--they

fascinated me because when you

were up close they were one

thing, and when you got back

they were something else

altogether different.

And for me, the attempt to

reconcile those two realities

just catapulted me into this

other reality and I wanted

something like that in my work.

So, Op art, also known as

optical art, is a movement that

started in the '60s with early

people like Bridget Riley, and

Victor Vasarely, Richard


It's about the phenomena and the

nature of perception and about

how the eye can be fooled.

On this one, you can see that

the edge seems to push in and

out against here, and it also

seems to warp out and warp and

weave this way

coming towards you.

You know, I didn't set out to

make Op art.

It just--my work just happened

to be heading in that direction

at a time when that became an

interest, you know, of a lot of

other artists as well.

>> Susie: Okay, so now I'm gonna

do two, six, three, two.

So, that starts here.

>> Susie: In 1990, 1991, I'd

been working with this number

system for a long time.

It's just a very simple number

game with just numbers one

through nine and laid out in a

three by three matrix, like on a

telephone or an adding machine.

And I discovered that if you did

these little diagrams and then

rotated the little drawing,

rotated that little sketch four

times around that three by three

matrix, you'd get this

consistent sum, like 22,220,

every single time, and that just

fascinated me.

And so, I tried every possible

permutation of that.

And I mean, I started when I was

13, and by then I was like 40,

and I'd been doing them as-- It

took me a long time to figure

out how to get them on canvas.

One morning in 1990, I just woke

up with the solution and the

solution was to do a full scale

drawing on a piece of Mylar, and

then glue it to the back of a

canvas, shine a light through

it, and that way I could see

where the lines were on the

drawing and I could tape over

that so that I could reproduce

the drawing absolutely.

That's how they got onto canvas.


>> Susie: Taping itself is

actually a very meditative


And I know people look at my

work, you know, the finished

product, especially the ones

that are optically so active.

They'll ask me, like, "How do

you do that?"

because it makes your eyes so


And it's like, no, you know,

when I'm working, there's really

only one color at a time on the

surface and it's actually very


It's a very relaxing process.

Most painters when they're

painting, they're constantly

building a new surface, creating

a new surface as they work.

For someone like me, I'm

constantly covering up my

surface because you lay down a

layer of paint, then you tape

where you want to preserve that

color before you put the next

layer of paint down.

So, for tapers, you're

constantly covering up your

surface and you don't know what

you've got until you actually

pull off that last bit of tape.

So, it's always a little bit of

a surprise.


>> Susie: So, in this painting

in particular, this is about as

minimal as an Op art painting

can get because it's a pale gray

and white.

It's just a very simple

progression of shapes.

What it's about for me is

something that's here and gone,

and yet forever here.

It's sort of like the breath,

breathing in and out.

I think that's the whole point.

Whatever it is that makes your

brain tingle and your heart

sudden--you know, everything,

just everything, your visceral

response, your intellectual


The reason to make art.

That and sex.

It is about that transcendent,

that epiphany, that sort of


I mean, that's why we do what we

do, right?


>> BJ: To see more art, head to

And that wraps it up for this

edition of "KPBS Arts."

For more arts and culture, visit, where you'll find

featured videos, blogs, and

information on upcoming arts


Until next time, I'm BJ


Thanks for watching.


>> announcer: Support for this

program comes from the KPBS

Explore Local Content fund,

supporting new ideas and

programs for San Diego.


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv