Living in Chicago, Illinois
What is your relationship to your authentic self?
I would say that my true self is who I am right now, whenever that moment of now is. In a way, I don’t think it’s possible to be anything less than authentic for anyone. If I were to hide part of myself that I felt was true, if I tried to present myself as who I thought people wanted me to be or who I wanted to be that is different from how I feel I am, then that would still be my authentic self – someone hiding part of herself and playing a role. I prefer not to hide any part of myself, and yet I don’t feel it’s necessary to make a statement about who I am. I did this to some extent when I was younger, when I lived in an environment that was in sharp contrast to much of what I felt. Then i needed to express myself very directly. I’m more of an observer now, a listener, someone who takes in what is around me. I am more interested in learning about others than in telling others about myself, unless they ask or are people who i feel very close to.
Do you have a sense of a calling?
Just today i was talking with a friend about combining work with what you are passionate about. Why it seems so difficult sometimes. I was thinking that the reason I can be happy in a variety of jobs is because I don’t have an overwhelming passion for any one thing. And then I realized that what I do have a passion for is people. Human beings are so amazing to me, I love the variety of what we are. My sense of calling is interacting with others. Most significantly, with my daughter, my family, my friends, but beyond the people who I know, there are the people who I meet in passing. The man I met on a street corner bench who told me I seemed like the kind of person who goes to church, probably because I listened to his stories without judgement. My calling is making connections with people, learning from them and offering what i have for them to learn from, too.
What’s your relationship to Japan? Do you or have you felt that place as a calling?
[I grew up in Miami.] Japan, like England, is one of the places that feels like home. I don’t know about the place as a calling, but my desire to live there was very strong and led me to meet my husband [who is a serious jazz trumpet player, originally from Japan] which led to the birth of our daughter. I might describe it more as a karmic relationship than a calling.
(Photo of Japanese baths, in Japan.)
How does having a family impact your life as an artist?
I read this question as referring to my husband and daughter, but really my family is as much my mother and grandparents. Growing up, I was always encouraged to pursue what I loved. I felt complete freedom that any life I chose was possible. I hope I give my daughter that same sense of possibilities. While this is a less creative phase of my life, I feel this comes from a lack of inspiration within myself rather than from any constraints as a wife or mother. It is a time of learning, expanding my own point of view, reaching a greater level of acceptance of the world as it is before expressing what I am learning through creation. There are certainly more practical concerns than I had when I was single, but all artists have those practical concerns, all people do, to a greater or lesser extent.
(A photo of Xena’s daughter & husband, on a recent trip to Japan.)
Do you plan to return to filmmaking? The films you made when you lived in Miami were like abstract poems. Can you describe your thoughts behind those films and your process for making them?
My thoughts were of color and texture and light. Light is what I love about film. That sparkling, transcendental quality – how film preserves images and ideas, and yet is so fragile itself. The films I love now are Bollywood, which are quite different, though full of poetry and color, certainly. It is the passion and sense of justice in those films that I love. If I return to filmmaking, I would want to combine those elements, I would want more narrative, but I haven’t felt the stories to be told.
Briefly describe your art-making process.
(Laughter, here) most of the art i make now is for/with my daughter. An origami bow out of a dollar bill. A drawing of our cat. The bedtime stories i tell her. Decorating a notebook with postage stamps saved from letters I receive at work, since no one sends me letters anymore.
Have you had any outstanding dreams, intuitive experiences or synchronicity related to your calling?
The simple answer is: yes.
There is one dream from long ago that I only half remember. It was a combination of a dream and a random meeting with someone. The dream took place at Matheson Hammock [in Miami], where many of my dreams have taken place. It was in the mangrove area, and there was a boat there that had washed ashore in one storm or another. It was half remembered as real, but more real as a dream landscape. Then I met a man when I was at a picnic table there, and he told me about that boat. That’s when I knew it was real in addition to being in my dreams. Years later, when I met Hiroshi, before we were married, I took him back to that area, and it’s one of the most beautiful memories I have of him, sitting on a rock among the mangroves, a feeling half of being in a dream, half of reality, like my memory of the boat. There was a sense of connection, being with him there, a feeling that being with him was right, the way our energy was in that place.
Then there are the dreams I’ve had looking through a camera lens. They are some of the most amazing dreams I’ve had. The light is spectacular, some in color, many in black and white. It’s a way of seeing the world. It’s the connection I have with film and movies and the connection I have with life.
What books are you reading right now?
An issue of Smithsonian magazine that my husband subscribed to when he was at the museum in Washington DC. It’s the issue about food, and I’m in the middle of an article on how humans might have developed greater intellectual capacity from cooking – food became easier to digest, less time was needed to find and eat food, our brains became better nourished and we had more time to think and figure out more effective ways of doing things.
Also, I’ve been reading, Lonely Woman by Takako Takahashi. It’s five short stories that are linked by the characters. There is one story, The Oracle, that is about a woman whose husband died in a car accident three years after their marriage. She had been completely happy with him, but she has a dream that causes her to question his perfection. She begins to doubt him, to believe that he was having affairs. There’s a very dark feel to it and won’t give away the ending, just in case you read it. I got the book from the library. There is something about Japanese writers, especially women, that is very deep. Reading these stories, it reminds me what is beneath the surface of the carefully maintained society in Japan. It also reminds me of myself – that balance of tranquility and passion. We all have a certain balance of each.
Paper or digital?
What’s your favorite vegetable?
What’s your favorite tea?
Earl Grey or real Indian chai, not the stuff you get at cafes here.