The art scene in the midwest throughout the 50s and 60s was a sad state of affairs. I went to the art museum in Wichita several times, and I wasn’t impressed with most of the works I saw there.

In the early 70s, after moving from Kansas to New York to go to theatre school, I discovered many artists who changed the way I look at art to this day.

Warhol was one of those artists, as was Rauschenberg. Egon Schiele was one, as were Michael Palmer, Ted Hughes, Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, and Mary Sims.

The artist who had the most profound influence on me, though, was Toko Shinoda.

I’d seen paintings and prints with imagery and color edge-to-edge. Shinoda introduced me to the power of Yohaku: the white space, the negative space that helps create and support her visual compositions. Her paintings and prints introduced me to the power of delicate, meaningful lines executed by an artist with a sure, powerful stroke. Born in 1913 in Dairen, Kwantung Leased Territory (today Dalian, China). Shinoda was 58 years old in 1971, but as I first learned about her work, it all seemed as new as the new decade and fresh and clean. And astonishingly complex.

Toko Shinoda

Artist, Toko Shinoda

Toko Shinoda is 102 years old and still creating art; Jacob and I purchased one of her 1968 works, Unknown Forms. [Update: Shinoda died on March 1, 2021, at a hospital in Tokyo at the age of 107.]

Toko Shinoda (Japanese, b. 1913) Forms, 1968, Size: 22.25" x 18", 57 x 46 cm (irregular sheet); 27.25" x 23", 69 x 58 cm (frame).

Toko Shinoda (Japanese, b. 1913) Unknown (Unseen) Forms, 1968, Size: 22.25″ x 18″, 57 x 46 cm (irregular sheet); 27.25″ x 23″, 69 x 58 cm (frame).

About her body of work, she says, “Certain forms float up in my mind’s eye. Aromas, a blowing breeze, a rain-drenched gust of wind…the air in motion, my heart in motion. I try to capture these vague, evanescent images of the instant and put them into vivid form.”

Shinoda’s work resides in the permanent collections of many of the great museums around the world. The museum’s curators often refer to Shinoda as “the Grande Dame of the Understated.”

She was born on March 28th. has a must-read book about Toko Shinoda and her work.