100 Unarmed African Americans Killed by Police in 2014, Hand cut paper, 2014

Algo, handcut paper, 2015

La Venganza de Los Milagros, Handcut paper, 2017

My Will, Handcut paper, 2014

No Yes Sí , Handcut paper, 2015

Una Vela, Handcut paper, 2014

Unity, Handcut paper, 2017

Where Compassion Breathes, Mixed Media collage, 2017

Where Compassion Breathes, Mixed Media collage, 2017

With History on Her Side, Mixed media with collage, 2017

Artist Statement

My work is shaped by an array of cultural influences but mainly by my Japanese ethnic roots. Growing up as a third generation Japanese American, I was surrounded by traditional art and textiles and also came to develop a kinship with pre-Columbian art of Latin America. This connection animates my mixed media work that merges past and present with social, political and emotional elements. For me each scrap of fabric or paper is a metaphor for identity and personal memory that is at the core of my art.

Artist Bio

Ellen is a mixed media and textile artist and taiko (Japanese drum) musician. For over 40 years she has endeavored to give voice to her Japanese cultural roots, to honor nature and to address political concerns through visual expression and the language of the drum. She began taiko training in 1974 under Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, founder of the San Francisco Taiko Dojo, and went on to become an original performing member of San Jose Taiko and founding member of Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble. Ellen has exhibited her art nationally and internationally since 1980 and in 1988 she co-founded 9-11 Studios, a live/work artist complex in Oakland, CA. Her work has spanned a range of media from painting to wearable art, installations, theatrical costume and set design, collage and hand cut paper. Her interest in the arts of Asia and Latin America led to her involvement in humanitarian projects and textile research in indigenous communities of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Mexico. She continues to explore the connection between art and culture of these civilizations as they inform her identity as an Asian American woman artist.


Education and Training
Bachelor of Science Degree, University of Oregon, Eugene, 1972 Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts, Berkeley, 1984-86
Individual folk art research – Chimaltenango, Guatemala 1973, Lima, Peru 1985, Michoacan, Mexico 1990

Selected Exhibitions/Commissions/Collaborations
2017 Artists’ Eyes Art of Incarceration, National Japanese American Historical Society, Peace Gallery and MIS Historic Learning Center, San Francisco, CA

Mygration, Joyce Gordon Gallery, Oakland, CA

Bluets: to fall under a spell, GearBox Gallery, Oakland, CA

Shifting Movements: Art Inspired by the Life & Activism of Yuri Kochiyama (1921-2014), SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA

4th Annual Juried Show, Piedmont Center for the Arts, Piedmont, CA

2016 All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50, Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA Then & Now, A Thread that Connects Us, J-Sei Building, Emeryville, CA

Transformation: 25 Years of Asian American Women Artists, Harrington Gallery, Pleasanton, CA United Front Black Liberation & Asian/Pacific Activism, Asian Resource Gallery, Oakland, CA

2015 Group Exhibition, Collector Gallery, Berkeley, CA

2014 Solo Exhibition: Still Waiting for a Sign, Michaelangelo Gallery, Santa Cruz, CA Group Exhibition, Colorida Galería de Arte e Design, Lisbon, Portugal

2013 Flo Oy Wong: The Whole Pie, Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2012 GaNADa, Performance by Dohee Lee, Asian Improv aRts and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, Stage Installation Design and Fabrication, SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA

2009-2012 When Dreams are Interrupted, Purple Moon Dance Project Collaboration, Site Specific Set Design and Installation, Berkeley, San Francisco, Lodi, Tule Lake Concentration Camp, Fresno and Sacramento, CA

2011 Time Cocoon, Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble Performance, Costume Designer and Artistic Consultant, ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA Atlacualo, Jose Navarrete and Violeta Luna Performance, Costume Designer/Consultant, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA

2005 Ghosts of Little Boy, Artists for Peace, National Japanese American Historical Society Peace Gallery, San Francisco, CA TransMissions, origins, re/generations & community, Performance, Purple Moon Dance Project, Zeum Theatre/Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CA

2004 Issho/Together: Japanese American/Japanese National Artists in America 1941 – Present, Meridian Gallery, San Francisco, CA

2000 Nikkei 2000 Art Exhibition, Japanese Peace Plaza, San Francisco, CA

1999 Art is Figurative – A Juried Competition, ACCI Gallery, Berkeley, CA Resilient Images: Reflections of Internment, National Japanese American Historical Society Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1998 Pro Arts Juried Annual Exhibition, Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, CA Asian Pacific American Artists Today, Laney College Library, Oakland, CA

1997 Ancient Lessons, New Life, Café Vox Populi, La Peña Cultural Center, Berkeley, CA Art Against the Death Penalty, New College of California, San Francisco, CA

1996 HeartWork, Creating Something Together, Euphrat Museum of Art, DeAnza College, Cupertino, CA Solo Exhibition, Richmond Art Center and Berlex Laboratories Inc, Richmond, CA

1995 Latent August, the Legacy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, National Japanese American Historical Society, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, CA BACA 11th Annual Juried Exhibition, Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, CA West Coast Works On/Of Paper Exhibition, The Ink People Center for the Arts, Eureka, CA

1994 The Alphabet Show, Okeanos Press Gallery, Berkeley, CA Stop the Violence, Center for the Visual Arts, Oakland, CA New World Border, Undocumented Art/Inalienable Rights, Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, CA Yellow Forest, SOMArts Gallery, San Francisco, CA

1993 Asian Roots/Western Soil: Japanese Influence in American Culture, Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, CA 63rd Annual Statewide Exhibition, Santa Cruz Art League, Santa Cruz, CA Object As Identity, 1078 Gallery, Chico, CA World of Difference – Art, Tourism and Cultural Dialogues, Euphrat Gallery, San Jose, CA

1992 Executive Order 9066 – 50 Years Later, San Jose Art League Gallery, San Jose, CA Rediscoveries: The Myth Makers, Jamaica Art Center, Jamaica, NY Four Directions: Women Honor Native Land, Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, CA Ancestors and Experience, Matrix Gallery, Sacramento, CA 500 Years of Resistance Through Women’s Eyes, Mission Cultural Center Gallery, San Francisco, CA Subtle Exchange, 1078 Gallery, Sacramento, CA

1991 Spirit of East and West, Berkeley Store Gallery, Berkeley, CA Our History, Our Rituals, Bayview Operahouse, San Francisco, CA and Intercultural Gallery Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA

1990 Layers, Japan Cultural Center Gallery, San Francisco, CA Divine Line, Arizona Commission on the Arts Traveling Exhibition, Mesa, AZ

Second Place Award, Piedmont Center for the Arts, 2017 Arquetopia Synergy Award, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2015 Arquetopia Artist Residency, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2014 and 2015 Gaea Foundaton: Sea Change Residency, Provincetown, MA 2007 DreamSpeakers Award, Purple Moon Dance Project, San Francisco, CA 2007 Honorable Mention Award, 63rd Annual Statewide Exhibition, Santa Cruz Art League 1993 Pacific Bell Scholarship Grant, Artisans Gallery, Mill Valley, CA 1989 Honorable Mention Award, Fine Art Exhibition, San Rafael, CA 1989 Juror’s Award, Galeria Mesa Exhibition, Mesa, AZ 1989 Purchase Award, West Coast Fiber Exhibition, Eureka, CA 1988

Volunteer International Projects
Tsukimi Kai Delegation to Cuba: Cultural Arts Exchange/ Oral History Project – Taiko performer and Musical Coordinator, 2005
Escuela Primaria Netzahualcóyotl, Bilingual School for Indigenous Children, Zihuatanejo, Mexico – Volunteer Teacher, 1994 – 2010
NICCA Project: Nicaragua Center for Community Action construction brigade, San Ramon, Nicaragua – Construction worker, 1991

Japanese taiko drum training, Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka, Founder of San Francisco Taiko Dojo, San Francisco, CA 1974

Past Affiliations
2009 – 2011 Artistic Consultant, Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble, taiko drumming performance ensemble
1999 – 2009 Co-founder, Managing Director and performer, Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble
1997 – 2011 Founding member and performer, Drumfire, Japanese taiko and Native American drumming performance ensemble
1974 – 1985 Original founding/performing member, San Jose Taiko, performance taiko company
Selected Performances
2007 Oakland Has Spoken II, performance with Drumfire, Scottish Rites Center, Oakland, CA

2006 Mahina, taiko drumming and dance collaboration with Jill Guillermo-Togawa, Purple Moon Dance Project 15th Anniversary Season, Zeum Theater, San Francisco, CA

2005 Tsukimi Kai – Delegation to Cuba, co-musical director of performances in Havana, Cienfuegos and Isle of Youth, Cuba

Tours and Selected Performances with Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble 2011 Time Cocoon, Costume Design/Artistic Consultant, ODC Theater, San Francisco, CA

2009 TEN – 10th Anniversary Concert, Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Mountain View, CA Japan Tour, University of Kanazawa, Kanazawa city, and Wajima City, Japan

2007 SYTE/ON Taiko X2, Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, Cerritos, CA

2006 Kingsbury Hall, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT Southwest Tour ’06, Las Cruces, Silver City, Alamogordo, Socorro and Tucumcari, NM Pacific Northwest Tour ’06, Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, ID and Eugene, OR

2004 Marsee Auditorium, El Camino College Center for the Arts, Torrance, CA Skywalker Studios, Lucas Ranch, Nicasio, CA Chains of Color, Collaboration with Robert Moses’ Kin, SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA

2003 Southwest Tour ’03, Valencia and Whittier, CA and Taos, Raton, Albuquerque, Farmington, NM Ovation Series, Collaboration with Dance Brigade, Popejoy Hall, Center for the Performing Arts, Albuquerque, NM Pacific Northwest Tour ’03, Eugene, OR, Seattle and Tacoma, WA Satsuki Arts Festival, Collaboration with Kenny Endo, Berkeley Jewish Community Center Theater, Berkeley, CA

2002 Disneyland Performances, Disneyland, Anaheim, CA Take 5, Collaboration with Masayuki Koga, Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco, CA Skin to String, Skin to Wind, Collaboration with Van-Ahn Vo and Unity Nguyen, SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, CA

2001 PoMo Arts Festival, Collaboration with Kularts, Yerba Buena Center Forum, San Francisco, CA The Nature of Nature, Collaboration with Facing East Dance and Music, Oakland Asian Cultural Center, Oakland, CA

2000 Robert Moses’ Kin, Fifth Anniversary Home Season Concert, Collaboration with Robert Moses, Sara Shelton Mann, Kelly Tacunda Orphan, Marcus Shelby, Cowell Theater, San Francisco, CA Monk at the Met, Collaboration with Sara Shelton Mann, Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco, CA


  • Mixed Media
  • Music
  • Visual Arts
  • San Francisco Bay Area
  • East Asian
  • Mixed Media