Made of Star Stuff: Thoughts on Milky Way by Mihoko Ogaki

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April 7, 2015 by katmcdaniel

It is human to fear things that make us feel uncertain. How can art help us to befriend those fears?

Figure from Milky Way © Mihoko Ogaki

Figure from Milky Way

The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. 

Carl Sagan, Cosmos

© Mihoko Okagi


Mihoko Ogaki, born in Toyama, Japan and educated at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in Germany, is fascinated by the interplay of darkness and light. In her continuing series Milky Way, Ogaki sculpts human figures from fiber-reinforced plastic. These figures are all in the final stages of death, age and pain dominating their features. Left in that state, these would be deeply depressing sculptures, but Ogaki embeds each one with bright LEDs that recreate the patterns of the stars of our Milky Way Galaxy. The effect is enchanting and lovely, as these dark forms are transfigured into illuminating presences, each giving back their light to the universe around them. The concepts of soul, energy, and eternity dance before us, mysterious as ever.

unlit sculpture from Milky Way


lit sculpture © Mihoko Ogaki


© Mihoko Ogaki

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The implications for the conscious and unconscious parts of the human being can’t be quantified. We can’t see in the dark, nor can we truly see what death is until we experience it. In both cases, the obscurity can be frightening, even if we have faith on which to lean. There is more going on than we can understand or even perceive.

© Mihoko Ogaki


© Mihoko Ogaki


Ogaki’s magical sculptures capture the beauty and interconnectedness of light and darkness and of life and death without explaining their mysteries or interpreting their meaning. They hint at synchronicity, at a promise of meaning, which is comforting. We need artists to dream and explore these universal issues as much as we need scientists and philosophers to do so.

© Mihoko Okagi


All images used in accordance with Fair Use Policy for educational and analytical purposes.

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