“I couldn’t experience any of those things children do, like trying out my mother’s high heels, or walking around in oversized shoes, or playing the heroine in a school play,” explains Mari Katayama. Katayama was born with an extremely rare condition that deforms bones in the lower legs, called tibial hemimelia. The condition caused her to have club feet and a cleft hand, and at the age of nine, she decided it would be best to amputate her legs so that she wouldn’t be bound to a wheelchair and could wear prosthetic legs. This adversity has been the inspiration for her art. “You can’t separate my body from my work, but, I’m not making art out of my disabilities,” she states
Katayama started making art as a teenager, she sewed legs that were filled with seashells, hair, crystals and collaged images, purely for her own entertainment. She started photographing the creations that she found the most beautiful so she could share her art with her Myspace friends. She started to pose with some of her stuffed body parts, namely her legs, which made for deeply thoughtful photography. “They were the legs I lost, that was how I imagined them. Right from the beginning, I saw myself as one of the raw materials to use in my work.”
Her work has been internationally recognized and is soon to be shown in galleries in North America and Europe. Katayama’s photography is something that speaks to audiences across the international art world and people are very curious about her individual story. “Creating and living are the same thing for me, there is no separation. I really don’t know where my work ends,” Katayama says.
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