In Response to Kazuya Sakai exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Buenos Aires: Painting from the Spirit of Music Aug.-Sept 2013

Janet Schriver, PhD
Nov 11, 2013 2:54AM

Kazuya Sakai found his place in the world of art, but he was more than an artist. One might call him a Renaissance Man, except his understanding of culture was from a world perspective, not merely a glimpse through the lens of Western Civilization. 

Passion and compassion were his trademarks. Whether listening to music, writing, painting, or teaching, Sakai approached the world with his heart.

Sakai was the head of my Master’s Thesis Committee at the University of Texas at Dallas. In 1983, I received my Masters in Humanities with a concentration in Aesthetic Studies. For two years I fortuned to have Sakai not only as a academic guide, but as a mentor in the Japanese tradition.

My studies were not like those of my peers. Sakai insisted that we have a standing meeting once a week. I was to come prepared with notes on my research and a list of questions for him. Likewise, he prepared. He came with any unanswered questions from the week before and a list of what he wanted to add to my knowledge.

After a few meetings, I realized that Sakai was working harder than I was. His preparation was meticulous. Every question I had asked the previous week was thoroughly researched and answered by him. Finally, I quizzed him on his dedication to serving as the lead on my committee.

“This isn’t just about you working on your thesis, this is about me being your teacher.”

Along the journey, Sakai explained that as a young man in Japan, he was sent away from his parents to go through spiritual training. When I asked him to be my teacher, he assumed that he was to take on those same duties of being a teacher as he had received as a student.

My studies with Sakai were rich and in-depth. My thesis was on the pioneer-abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky. Like Kandinsky, Sakai associated music with an abstract style. Words are not there to express what he taught me during those two years of study. I attribute to Sakai an understanding of non-representational art that goes far beyond words.

Sakai could also make a terrific cup of French-press coffee, but he’d lived for a time in France!

Janet Schriver, PhD
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019