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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

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UNCA art student uses her Japanese culture to inspire her unique art pieces

Jayme Sawyer
Maho Omiya’s favorite stone litho-print piece. (Art by Maho Omiya)

Maho Omiya, a junior and art student at UNC Asheville, said she creates art to dig deeper into her culture since both of her parents are from Japan. 

“It sort of started when I was in high school taking my AP art class. For my concentration, I chose Japanese folktale and that was the spark. I wanted to create more art about my culture because I sensed such beauty in it,” Omiya said. 

Omiya said she loves to create art that has unlimited possibilities and pushes her boundaries. She occasionally makes art based on Japanese mythical creatures known as yokai, or draws someone with traditional Japanese clothing. 

“My favorite thing about being an artist is when I’m creating my pieces, I get to create the world I visualize in my head.” Maho Omiya, linoleum print.
(Art by Maho Omiya) (Jayme Sawyer)

“My favorite thing about being an artist is when I’m creating my pieces, I get to create the world I visualize in my head. It’s always unlimited and excites me whenever I start to create my piece,” Omiya said. 

The piece Omiya said she is the most proud of is her first stone litho-print she created last semester. 

“It’s because it was the one I went most wild for,” Omiya said. 

According to Omiya, Robert Dunning, professor of art at UNCA, helped and inspired her to push her limits, get out of her comfort zone and create more eye-catching artwork.  

“Maho is very creative, very smart and there are technical things she does very well. I don’t think she knew that though. Early on I don’t think she had that kind of confidence in her art, but that is my job as a teacher to bring it out of the student,” Dunning said. 

Dunning said he has had Omiya in his class four times so far and he set the bar high for her from the beginning. He said Omiya does not run away from big obstacles, wants to work hard and has lots of self-motivation when it comes to art making. 

“I want to help students like Maho identify what their personal skills are, every student has different skills and styles. I look at their personal art outside of school to get a look at who they are as people and as artists. I want them to bring that into their school art too because it’s the most honest stuff they do,” Dunning said. 

Dunning said his personal teaching style is working on technical skill-building with students in the beginning, to give them a good foundation for their own creativity later in their art journey. 

“Once a student has the foundation of technical and compositional skills, then they have the tools necessary to manifest their ideas,” Dunning said. 

An inked sketch by Maho Omiya.
(Art by Maho Omiya) (Jayme Sawyer)

Anna Konar, a sophomore and art student of Dunning’s also creates printmaking as Omiya does, but has a different artistic style, shape and color scheme. 

“I’m definitely very nature-focused, I enjoy geometric shape usage and try to find ways to bring more vibrant colors into my art,” Konar said. 

Konar said she sees Omiya in the art studio often and is continuously impressed by her skills. 

“She’s always really focused. Her color scheme and design elements are super amazing. Her style in general is definitely something that draws you in,” Konar said.

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