Yamasaki grew up in a large, diverse family full of artists, activists and teachers in a factory town north of Detroit. She entered college in 1995 with the intention of pursing social work, but found her way to art through children’s books and a lucky internship with legendary illustrator, Ed Young.
After college, she began teaching Spanish in both the Detroit and New York City public schools and eventually landed at SVA’s MFAI program just days before 9/11. Her grandfather was chief architect of the WTC and in the months that followed the attacks, she watched as the Twin Towers suddenly became a symbol of a pro-war agenda. With that as the backdrop, Yamasaki started thinking seriously about the type of symbols we have the opportunity to create as artists. She found her way to muralism shortly after earning her MFA in 2003.
She has traveled widely, painting over 80 walls in diverse communities around the world. During that time, she also worked for 12 years as a teaching artist at Ballet Tech, The NYC Public School for Dance. In recent years, Yamasaki’s work has paid particular attention to communities impacted by incarceration, both on the inside and on the outside. From a young age, Yamasaki was aware of the profound impact of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans and has related the experience of her family and extended community to that of communities facing parallel issues around civil liberties, detention, identity and resilience.
Yamasaki also writes and illustrates children’s books that explore themes and stories similar to those that appear in her murals. Currently, she is working on her 7th book for children, DAD BAKES, that explores the relationship between a father and daughter when the father returns home from a period of incarceration.
Yamasaki lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Amit, and their two-year-old daughter, Ayla. Prior to Ayla, they had a son, Shisa, who was stillborn close to his due date and lives on in every mural, every book, every brushstroke and tender moment of Yamasaki’s life.
|Presentation||10:00 am – 11:00 am|
|Book||Everything Naomi Loved|
11th Street. It wasn’t pretty but it was alive!
Honking cars, pizza by the slice, Hair by Carmen, the corner bodega―and Naomi’s best friend, Ada.
But 11th Street begins to change. Shops close, buildings are torn down, and signs promise something new. One by one, Naomi’s neighbors are forced to move. Faced with the transformation of her city block, Naomi picks up a paintbrush. When something we love goes away we paint it on the wall so it’s always with us, her neighbor Mister Ray tells her. Naomi turns her 11th Street memories into a great mural―and discovers that where she finds people to love, she will have a place to love.
Internationally acclaimed muralist Katie Yamasaki’s paintings are at once monumental and heartfelt. Everything Naomi Loved entwines a celebration of community and friendship with a vision of social justice in this lyrical and universal story about home.