Gina Ariko is a Japanese-American figurative painter based in Seattle, WA. Growing up, she spent every other summer visiting family in Kitakyushu, Japan, where her ojichan and obaachan first taught her to paint. Despite the language and distance barriers between them, they learned to communicate through a shared love for painting. Her interest in art and storytelling overlapped at Santa Clara University, where she majored in both English and studio art, and minored in art history. After graduation, she worked across multiple museums and organizations focused on education and community development before pursuing her art full-time in 2020.
I owe my lifelong love of painting to my ojichan and obaachan, who were both professional artists. Growing up biracial and second-generation American, I often felt caught in the in-between, sometimes feeling “too American to be Japanese” and other times “too Japanese to be American.” This push-and-pull shows up in my work: nostalgia and a search for belonging are recurring themes in my paintings. I'll often incorporate Japanese household objects and pattern work into my paintings to highlight and share my heritage. I get a deep sense of calm from portraying the quiet intimacy in everyday moments that might otherwise be overlooked.
Likewise, my figurative work is inspired by old family photos, at once familiar and distant, and the way our shared memories can almost start to feel like dreams. I love lingering in those hard-to-grasp moments, and hope that my work stirs feelings of comfort and curiosity in others, too.
my first painting supervised by Shigetoshi
Ariko (my baachan) holding me up in front of her painting at a gallery exhibition
Shigetoshi and Ariko