Yet the young artist’s oeuvre is about much more than the condition—tibial hemimelia—which led to her to decide to amputate her legs at age 9, while she was growing up in Gunma prefecture. The photographs are celebrations of glittery, girlish making, and of traditional craft objects. They’re lush vehicles for all of Katayama’s creations: painting, sculpture, and of course, her own self-presentation. She creates a theatrical world in which she’s simultaneously the author, director, and star. The pictures’ confidence, and Katayama’s inclusion in the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, augur an exciting career and a receptive international audience.
In one of the pictures on view in the Biennale’s central exhibition, “May You Live in Interesting Times,” at the Arsenale, Bystander #02 (2016), Katayama sits tall on a burgundy sofa with a floral pattern, flanked by pillows she sewed herself. The backdrop is sparkling, textured teal—part of one of her paintings. Stuffed, sewn arms studded with pearls wrap around her like a shawl. They feature lifelike fingers: She prints hands directly onto the material. Katayama appears like a queen from a fairy tale of her own making.