57. Beauty through God’s Eyes with Satomi Suzuki

May 1, 2024 - Roger W. Lowther

Welcome to the Art, Life, Faith Podcast, and I’m your host Roger Lowther.

Just the other day we hosted a Zoom call for our friend Satomi Suzuki to help raise money for her upcoming artist residency. She’s a visual artist and a writer here in Tokyo, but she’s about to head to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. And so in advance of her departure, I asked if she wouldn’t be willing to have a conversation with us.

Roger

Well, I'm sitting here with Satomi Suzuki, and this person, I don't know why it's taking me so long to introduce y’all to her. She is an amazing person. She's been a long-time attender of our Art, Life, Faith gatherings, and she's so caring, giving to other artists in the room who haven't been coming very long or who are younger. She has a very caring heart. She is a writer and a visual artist, and you can see that in many of the works that she does. She has published books. She has gallery showings with her paintings. She has been writing lyrics for worship songs that we have at Grace City. It's so cool that we have many new songs introduced at our church because she's been writing lyrics for us. And Satomi really is a pillar of Grace City Church. She leads the prayer ministry at the church. Once a month, during COVID, she was doing it online and did an amazing job. Now we meet in the back of the sanctuary before worship every week. And she's just a help in so many different ways.

Anyway, I'm very glad to have you here, Satomi.

Satomi

Thank you so much, Roger. It's too much big compliment to me.

Roger

No, no, no. It's not big enough. It's not big enough.

Satomi

Thank you.

Roger

Yeah, I really want people to get a little picture of who you are and what it is that you do. So you're a visual artist. And I remember I went to your gallery showing last year, and there were so many people there.

Satomi

Oh, I'm so grateful for that.

Roger

And they were so happy to be there, too.

Satomi

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Roger

And just the way that you cared for everyone that walked in the room. I wonder, can you tell me a little bit about how would you describe your art to our listeners?

Satomi

Thank you. I really like to draw, but I want to express my image of something like God's love. I want to express something important we can't see always, real beauty we can't see.

Roger

So there's a beauty that we have that we can't see ourselves, that God sees in us? Is that what…

Satomi

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right, right.

Roger

I mean, that's... As I look at your artwork, it's so colorful. You know what I mean? Bright colors and lots of colors. And use the image of flowers a lot and oceans. So the beauty we see in nature, I see a lot in your artwork. And so you're saying that also helps us understand the beauty that God sees in us as his creation?

Satomi

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And I just like to draw and using colorful stuffs. And there is a wonderful thing. Art is so free, and we don't have rules when I draw, so I can feel more freedom.

Roger

That's good to hear. There's actually in organ music, there's a lot of rules. People come up to me, they're like, “You can't play it that way.” I'm like, “Why not?”

Satomi

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Actually, I don't know. Even I don't know the rules of the visual art. So yeah, might I should to know the rules of the visual art?

Roger

Well, I think you clearly know what they are.

Satomi

Hope so.

Roger

Yeah. Well, I want to ask you, too. You put out a children's book recently called I Am An Apple. Can you tell us a little bit about the story of that?

Satomi

Sure. As you know, I'm still an English learner. But when I was learning English, I like this idiom, “You are the apple of my eyes.” And this word is really interesting as Japanese because you are the apple of someone's eyes, really important to me. So I wanted to express that the apple, the main character is apple, and the apple finds himself. And we always want to know real identity. And if someone says, “You are the apple of my eyes” to someone, it's really wonderful. And I wanted to express God's love through the apple.

Roger

It's beautiful. It's exactly like you're saying what you're trying to say, the message in your art is what you've put in the book as well. Just this poor apple. He's around other vegetables, right? And he's different. He's like, oh, he doesn't know what his identity is, but in the end finds it and the intrinsic beauty that he has.

Satomi

Yeah. And if someone asks you, “Who are you?” can you answer exactly? I’m always thinking those kinds of questions. But if I could say, God is loving me. It's really great.

Roger

That's such an important message that people understand how they're loved. I heard someone say, actually at church just a couple of weeks ago, we had someone come through and share about their ministry and said that in Japan, a lot of people don't feel loved, that it was something like 50% or something like that, compared to Americans, where it was a much higher percentage. Is that one reason that you are trying to express that as a Japanese artist, as a Japanese person living in Japan? Is it a message that's really important for people to hear?

Satomi

Right, right. Exactly. And I wanted to share that beauty is not one style. So even if you think yourself, I am ugly, but God says, You are so beautiful because I made you.

Roger

Yeah. I mean, I've found... It's just amazing to me how the words of others really impact us so deeply. If it's a kind word, we feel encouraged. If it's an unkind word, it seems to last like 100 times more powerfully than the kind words for some reason. And so I feel like we really need that encouragement, that message that you're telling, because we forget, because there's a lot of unkind words that people say, and we can't seem to knock them out of our head. And so the more people that are sharing, this is God's love. He sees you as beautiful. You're important. He gives you your identity. Not what others say, not even what we say about ourselves. We may have a very low image of ourselves, but that's different than God's eyes, where he's like, “No, I made you. You're important to me. I love you.” I really appreciate how your art speaks that.

Satomi

Thank you.

Roger

I know soon into your journey of becoming a Christian, you went to Israel to learn more. And then you joined Grace City Church soon afterwards, which is the church that I work at. And you told me that I was the first person that you met at Grace City?

Satomi

Yeah, I remember you talked me about... Actually, my name is Satomi. It's really Japanese common name. Then I hated that. But Roger said, “Oh, Satomi? It's a beautiful name.”

Roger

It is a beautiful name.

Satomi

Oh, really? Well, thank you. So I was so surprised, and my heart became warm.

Roger

Oh, good. I'm glad we could encourage you. And then soon after that, you started coming to all the different art events we did, and then became a part of the artist community.

Satomi

Because Roger and Abi are always so welcoming. So I can easily join and enjoy the time with people. So I really appreciate that.

Roger

Well, thank you. So then soon after that, I know you joined what we call the Samurai Project here, which is training to learn more about the Bible. It was like a part-time job, right? You're paid a little bit, and you attend classes all day, and then you do an internship with a church. So now you're going to Mississippi for this artist residency. You're going down to Ocean Springs, right on the coast. A beautiful place. I wish I could go to. Tell me what your are hoping for in that residency?

Satomi

Actually, this is super unexpected opportunity for me. So it doesn't feel like real still. I hope I can meet many people, Christian people. Actually, I don't have exact what I want to do, but I want to draw, and I want to get so many inspirations from their place and people.

Roger

Yeah, I know you're going to be spending a lot of your time in an art gallery that just opened up, a husband and wife. And she is a floral arranger making decorations for huge parties and weddings and all sorts of events. I know that's going to be an amazing experience. And connected to a great church there and all the people there. And there's this amazing artist community that I got to meet last year when I was there. I'm so excited for you to meet them because I know they're going to be a huge encouragement to you as well. There's a number of potters and a lot of visual artists. It's just such a beautiful place. So I'm really hoping it's going to inspire you to be able to go to different places and draw and paint and create a lot of work and sell a lot of work.

Satomi

Thank you, Roger. You always give me so many hopes.

Roger

When I saw your gallery exhibit last year, it really struck me that Ocean Springs would be a good place for you to be because of some of your themes of flowers and trees and ocean and sunlight. That's exactly what that place is. I do pray that it's going to be a good time for you. Rest and inspiration, and that God will be close to you during that whole time. Do you know yet what your hopes are for the fall when you get back?

Satomi

I always want to live as an artist in Japan. In the world, it's maybe difficult to live as an artist, but I want to live as an artist because God gave me the gift as a talent and because when I draw, I feel so much joy. I want to spread and I want to share this joy with people through the art. I want to share my artworks more after autumn, after this year. I hope this summer will be my jumpboard of my life to the next step.

Roger

Very cool. And you were telling me before we started recording that you think your next exhibit in Japan will be probably in January after you get back and make a lot of work here. I'm hoping you're going to sell a lot of what you make in Mississippi. It's going to be hard to get it all back here.

Satomi

Yeah.

Roger

So how can people see your work? How can people buy your work? How can people hear your story?

Satomi

Yes, through my website. And I write a blog, but all in Japanese, so you can see my website or Instagram.

Roger

Okay. And that website is www.satomisuzuki.info. If you go there, you'll see her artwork. Also, there's a place where you can click Contact. If you do, and I encourage you to do that so you can get updates from Satomi and hear in her newsletter—which is in English, her blog's in Japanese, but her newsletter is in English—so you can hear about what she's doing down in Mississippi and her journey going forward.

Satomi

Yeah.

Roger

Thank you so much for sitting down to record with me today.

Satomi

Thank you so much, Roger. And thank you so much for the listeners, being patient of my English.

Roger

Your English is great. Thank you. Well, during your time in Mississippi, I know you're going to have a lot of practice.

Satomi

Yeah, I’m so thankful.

Roger

Anyway, thank you so much.

Satomi

Thank you for having me.

Roger

I hope you've enjoyed these conversations with Satomi. Now, if you want to support her residency, she actually has quite a bit of money to raise. Her budget is very low. I've seen the budget. It's $6,000, the very bare minimum of what she needs. And she's raised $2,000 of that so far, but still has another $4,000 to go. And so if you're interested in supporting her, I encourage you to go to the show notes for this episode at www.rogerwlowther.com and there you'll see links about how you can give to her. Before we sign off, I wanted to give you just one more picture of her heart and her vision as she shared it in the Zoom call earlier this week.

Satomi

I always want to express God's love and beauty of God, but we can't see it. So I want to express it always. Ten years ago, I became a Christian, and at the same time, I started to draw. So I believe drawing is a gift from God. And when I draw, my heart is filled with joy. If the artist doesn't share the artwork with anyone, the artwork is unfinished. The artwork wasn't born yet. So I think sharing art is so important as an artist, and I want to share my joy and beauty of God to many people.

So that is what success means to me, that my artwork will be a bridge that connects non-Christians and the gospel.

Roger

This is Roger Lowther, and you've been listening to the Art, Life, Faith podcast. As we say in Japan, ”Ja, mata ne! See you next time.”

Satomi's Instagram account

GIVING
US citizens may give a tax-deductible gift toward Satomi's residency through the following link:

https://mtw.org/projects/details/community-arts-tokyo

(Please send a note through Satomi's website so that we can designate that money toward her, as a number of projects are going through this account.)

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