Born 1948 in Nagasaki, Japan; lives and works in Mexico City

Kiyoto Ota studied at the School of Democratic Japan Art, Japanese Art Association, and Mexico’s National School of Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving (“La Esmeralda”). At the latter, he also served as professor of sculpture. He later received a master’s degree in sculpture at the National School of Plastic Arts (ENAP) in San Carlos, where he has taught stone carving since 2006. Ota has won several awards for his art and has been a fellow at such institutions as Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte.


My name is Kiyoto Ota. I am... well, a sculptor.

One of my friends was kind of like a hippie, and he talked about Mexican art, in particular things like muralismo. After listening to stories about Mexican earth and land or land patterns, humanity and things like that, I felt a kind of longing for something like that in Mexico, and because there was nothing like it in Japan, I had a longing for Mexico.

Well, I joke that I've forgotten quite a bit of Japanese, and I feel like I can't speak Spanish well, and of course there are times when I don't know what I am but I do think I am Japanese inside.

I came here when I was 23, and being 23 I suppose I was already marked by Japanese culture, so I guess I am Japanese after all.

When I make my work, even though I don't make my work being conscious that I am Japanese, I guess it ends up coming out. After all, I can't deny it, and I do think that the way I think about things and my intuition is probably Japanese. I do think [this appears in my work] I think it is unconsciously within me. After all, I am Japanese, and I think there is a certain influence of so-called Japanese culture.

Well, I feel it is actually getting stronger as I get older. When I was young I wasn't very conscious of it, I feel like I was free of that influence, but as I gradually get older, in the end I feel that the influence of Japanese culture on myself is getting stronger day by day.

Through sculpture and through its manners of production I made a work that allows one to experience healing space.

That is the Uterus series. From the beginning I was after all interested in the interior space of sculpture “Nido,” exactly as the name suggests, is one of the uteri, and it floats in the air like a uterus. Something can actually enter inside it. Therefore, a sense of stability is created in the spirit.

I have not studied Zen a lot, After all, there are always cultural environments that affect the ways we think, and of course I was unconscious of that while I was still in Japan, but recently in particular when I take a step back I actually feel there is a considerable influence from Zen inside me after all.

I think through the internal space in the Uterus Series experiencing healing by not just the eyes but by feeling in the body was the goal of the series.

* * * * *

Transpacific Borderlands: The Art of Japanese Diaspora in Lima, Los Angeles, Mexico City, and São Paulo is on view at the Japanese American National Museum from September 17, 2017 - February 25, 2018. The exhibition examines the experiences of artists of Japanese ancestry born, raised, or living in either Latin America or predominantly Latin American neighborhoods of Southern California. Kiyoto Ota is one of the artists featured in this exhibition.

For more information about the exhibition, visit

Japanese American National Museum
100 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012

*The exhibition is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a Getty-led initiative exploring Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles, and is made possible through grants from the Getty Foundation. The presenting sponsor of PST: LA/LA is Bank of America.

JANM — Last modified Sep 22 2018 10:06 p.m.

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