Not long ago, Satsuki Shibuya received an email that brought her to tears.
Sent by one of the Los Angeles artist’s collectors, the note explained that the author had gone through a miscarriage—and how a painting by Shibuya helped her process her grief. “There was a painting that called out to her; she put it up in her space, and said that it really helped her through that dark period of her life—and that she’s pregnant again,” Shibuya says via video from her home in Rancho Palos Verdes. “When I read that it really moved me: not the fact that I created it, but the fact that art can actually be that powerful for someone.”
In a post-pandemic world, where does art fit in? After two years of evaluating what “really matters” to each of us, it could be tempting to cast it aside as frivolous—but that would be doing art (and ourselves) a disservice. Because if we really get down to brass tacks, art is more important now than ever before. When we were stuck in our homes, when we were experiencing our collective grief, when we were uncertain about the future, art was one of the only places we could turn to for solace and escape. “It saved me, I think,” Shibuya says, “many, many times.” Whether it be in the form of books, music, television, or paintings, proper art isn’t the frills of life—it’s the guts. Art asks us to look at ourselves and to understand the world around us at the same time.
It’s what makes Shibuya’s work so poignant. With a background in music production and product design, she brings a multilayered approach to her paintings, which work with muted color palettes, soft and organic shapes, light yet expansive brush strokes, and grounding yet ethereal themes. Shibuya is also an energy reader, and lets a person or project’s feeling guide her throughout the painting process.
“It’s almost like I tune into their radio station. And once I tune in, sometimes I’ll see actual footage as if I’m watching movies, and sometimes I’ll see colors and shapes,” she explains. “A lot of times it’s just an energetic feeling: kind of like when you feel like summer is changing to fall and you smell it in the air, or that feeling when you fall in love.” It’s a fluid, intuitive practise, and it informs everything from the colors she mixes together to the dots and lines of her brush.
This emotion-based work manifests itself in top form in Shibuya’s recent collaboration with vitruvi. Special for Giving Tuesday, she hand-painted 10 Stone Diffusers using a mix of ceramic paint, wax crayon, and water-based colored pencil. All sales from the diffusers are being donated to Every Mother Counts: a charity founded by Christy Turlington Burns that provides women around the world with adequate, equitable, safe, and proper access to maternity care.
All 10 Stone Diffusers are uniquely painted, making each one a true collector’s item. Demonstrating Shibuya’s mastery of color, texture, breath, and movement, these works of art will fit seamlessly into any home.
“I wanted there to be a variety [in design], with the underlying idea of serenity and peace—but also connected back to one’s own spirit while they’re experiencing the diffuser,” she explains. “I’ve always loved the idea of art being a part of someone’s everyday.”
And that’s just it: art as daily life. It shouldn’t be relegated to white cubes and stiff museums—it should be weaved into our smallest moments.
“We go through the daily motions, and that’s why there needs to be a place where we can kind of rest and take a breather and enjoy things: good food or good company or good music,” Shibuya says. “Something that makes us remember that there’s so much beauty in the world. And I feel like that’s where art fits in, is those moments where you need to take a break and realize that there’s more beyond the daily grind of life. I want my art to have the power to let people remember what it means for them to be alive.”