Contemporary artist Rachel Sussman is mending cracks in our urban environment with her series Sidewalk Kintsukuroi. Inspired by kintsugi—also known as kintsukuroi—the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, Sussman brings this philosophy to city pavements.
Sussman was already attracted to the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of wabi-sabi when an image of repaired broken pottery sparked her imagination. As chance would have it, she discovered the photograph of kintsugi around the time when her book The Oldest Living Things in the World was being published.
After spending 10 years photographing ancient organisms for that project, it was a natural next step to play with the idea of repairing what is broken. A new installation and studies from Sidewalk Kintsukuroi are currently part of the Alchemy: Transformations in Gold exhibition at the Des Moines Art Center.
Sussman repaired a crack in the center’s marble floor, an installation which is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. Also on display are study photographs, where the streets of New York City have their fissures filled with gold dust.
Whether permanent or theoretical, Sussman’s work falls in line with kintsugi philosophy. “Cracks represent something in need of attention, and the surfaces we walk, bike, and drive over are usually overlooked until they’re in truly critical condition,” the artist explains. “By gilding them, it’s a way to see what’s around us with fresh eyes and to celebrate perseverance.”