Kiko Kiturami vs. the (Men) In Her Head (mixed media, 2017)

KikoKiturami SPLIT
Kiko Kiturami vs the (Men) In Her Head (mixed media, 2017)
So this is my newest painting, I just finished it last night.

It’s a frame from a graphic novel that I haven’t written yet. Well, it’s a frame from a comic inside of a graphic novel. A comic that might or might not be real, about a girl that might or might not be real/missing? I know, at this point I’m just being purposefully

The (Men):

I’m not sure anyone will even ask, but the Japanese character in the center is 面, which is pronounced “men” and translates to “mask.” I learned about it from a book called What’s Japanese About Japan, which I bought from Goodwill for the title alone. (Excuse my ignorance, but wouldn’t a book called “What’s NOT Japanese About Japan be a little less redundant?) I’ve had it for probably four years, and I’ve never looked at it.


I was procrastinating on something else (of course) and decided that the ONLY medium which would allow me the freedom to truly express myself was… collage. I think it was at that moment that I evolved into my true form: 45 year old scrapbooker from Ohio named Joy. And then I murdered Joy’s innocence by using her artistic passion to depict a decapitated girl. Sorry Joy. Life is hard, and it hates you.


The crowd in Kiko’s head came from that book. And so did 面. Actually, the entire inspiration from the painting, and some of its meaning, was inspired by a passage, describing how a face and a mask are sometimes the same thing:

“A face in the crowd. We do not know the man, but we think we know the face. We have seen that face many times before, on men who were happy and on men who were sad, on men who were angry and men who were bored, on men who were sure that they were right and on men who were uncertain.”

The book goes on to explain that in some Japanese arts, like noh and kabuki, the mask and face blur together, so that it is either unclear or unimportant which is real.

“Once, puppets imitated people, and this entertainment fave rise to a new art form where people imitated puppets.” 

I was intrigued by the idea of “mask” being pronounced “men,” as if the idea of being “a man” is something of a mask that someone can wear to depict an idea, rather than an actual expression of the person inside. Or even, more broadly, if “men” (in the ‘realms of men/all humans usage), are never not wearing a mask, because their “mask” is their face, which can be manipulated or left blank to suit the wearer’s purpose.

The idea went through several iterations, and more than a few horrible sketches, but for some reason I kept coming back to the idea that it was Kiko, and once I figured out the story behind it, the piece came together quickly.


Kiko Kiturami is the sister of the MeiMei Kiturami, and she’s missing. MeiMei finds a comic book that depicts Kiko in a violent, terrifying, and more than a little surreal situation. MeiMei is desperate to find Kiko, but she also is scared and confused. Before she found the comic book, MeiMei didn’t realize her sister was missing. Before she found the comic book, MeiMei didn’t realize she had a sister.


What I’m most proud of:

  • My drop-shadowed Japanese character (that I was terrified to mess up/mis-translate despite cross-referencing it like 30 times)
  • The smoothness, post-editing (in real life there’s a lot more texture on her face… because I glued it on over the crowd picture.)
  • The purple tile (I got this canvas from Goodwill and it was pre-colored lavender (!!) and when I realized I was going to be covering it up almost completely I was v sad that I was wasting such a magical find. Thankfully, I decided to make it into purple tile and voila, I spent an hour looking at the ugliest bathrooms in the world as references. I love how it turned out.)
  • Her weird asymmetricality.  (surely there is a noun of this word??) At first, I thought I was going to have to repaint her eyes and hair, because they ended up being very strangely different  from each other, but after finishing the piece I actually like it. It kind of looks like the left side (our right side) is an older version of the same Kiko, her hair and face are longer, and the features are generally less childlike. This fits with the weirdness of the
  • That damn crossword puzzle

I entered this into a contest (the deadline was midnightPST/ 3amEST. I finished at 1:30AM. I like to stay completely in-character at all times.) And although I don’t think I will win (I’ve seen the other entries and they are… much more in-theme…) it was an excellent way to force a deadline… I doubt I would have finished this piece anytime this year without it. Now, if only there were a contest for vacuuming my house.