Columbia artist creates outsider art

Teriko, who goes by only a first name, considers art to be a question of semantics.
Friday, August 8, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:17 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 8, 2008

What's your name and age?

Teriko, 39, but I don't use my last name. It's just Teriko. I like to keep things simple, and I get tired of having to write my whole name.


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How long have you lived in Columbia and done your pop art?

I was born at Boone Hospital but grew up in St. Charles County. I've lived here 15 years but have always done art pieces. It started out as something I did in college for amusement, for friends and family. I didn't intend to sell anything, but now it's a part of me.

I guess you can say I have a dual life. My day job, I'm an autism researcher. The whole trained scientist, you know, logical and methodical. At night, I do this because it's fun for me. It's the most fun for me.

I've only been showing my work recently, maybe two years, but I've been doing this seriously for five.


The Internet. I'm not good at the whole face-to-face thing, so I put things up online. Other people's feedback, I liked that others connected with what I was doing. I started doing public shows outside of Columbia first. St. Louis, Chicago, kind of the opposite of what most people do. They start off locally and then branch out. I tend to rebel against structure. The more you tell me what I'm supposed to do, the less I'll want to do it.

How would you describe your work?

I'm really not good with words. I really don't like talking too much. I guess I'm kind of a "socialphobe," is that a word? I know people say it a lot but my work just speaks for itself. It might just come with age, but I'm not worried if people like my work. I just want it to entertain. It's more outsider art, I guess.

What do you consider outsider art?

Stuff that's not in a real museum made by untrained people who didn't go to art school. I try not to get hung up on the terminology of things. I find the arts versus craft thing funny. Arts, crafts, whatever. It's all semantics. If it moves you, it's art - it's good.

It's ordinary people doing extraordinary things and not necessarily following a set path. I find it inspiring because it says that all things are possible.

What are your inspirations?

I like the overlooked, strange, creepy and absurd. I like to combine things from different time periods, rummaging through bins of old pictures and books in off-the-path places. What other people overlook is my treasure. What I find special isn't going to be what most people find special.

My interests go in cycles. I was obsessed with paper moons for a while. I have a huge collection of vintage children's books. I can tell the difference between a book from the 1920s and the 1930s just from the pictures.

How long does it take you to do a piece?

Some pieces take years because I can't find the missing piece.

What does your family think of your work?

At first they were worried. My parents are both retired teachers. My father's a typical Japanese father. He was a math teacher and stressed the SATs growing up. You know, as an Asian there's that pressure growing up and I'm the only child. I did the whole school thing, went to MU in Kansas City, but this is my focus.

My grandfather was an artist but he died when my father was young during the war in Japan. Is it evolution or devolution, I love Devo by the way, but that genetic trait must have skipped him.

He's my biggest fan now and went with me to Renegade in Chicago. The main thing he remembered was, "What's up with all the tattoos on these people?"

So what now?

I hope to do this full time now that it's a viable option. It's not a lot of money but it's enough, and that's not how I define my success. I've been told that I under-price my work, but I always price things with my own affordability in mind. Plus, I don't follow the rules anyway.


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