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Artist Uses Kintsugi to Mend Cracked Streets with Gold

Sidewalk Kintsukuroi Rachel Sussman

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.”

kintsukuroi japanese art of repair

“Sidewalk Kintsukuroi” installation at the Des Moines Art Center (Image via Rich Sanders)

kintsugi art japanese repair

“Study for Sidewalk Kintsukuroi #01 (New Haven, Connecticut),” photograph with enamel paint and metallic dust

kintsukuroi japanese art of repair

“Study for Sidewalk Kintsukuroi #02 (MASS MoCA),” photograph with enamel paint and metallic dust

Sidewalk Kintsukuroi Rachel Sussman

“Study for Sidewalk Kintsukuroi #08 (Williamsburg, Brooklyn),” photograph with enamel paint and metallic dust

Sidewalk Kintsukuroi Rachel Sussman

“Study for Sidewalk Kintsukuroi #09 (SoHo, New York),” photograph with enamel paint and metallic dust

Sidewalk Kintsukuroi Rachel Sussman

kintsugi art japanese repair
Rachel Sussman: Website | Instagram
h/t: [Colossal, Hyperallergic]

All images via Rachel Sussman except where noted.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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