Retro-reflections on Sculpting Nature

Mimi Kato x Cleveland Metroparks

August 23 - October 18, 2013

As she moved from region to region in the U.S. over the past six years, Cleveland-based artist Mimi Kato noticed something strange: an abundance of plant life she recognized from her birthplace of Nara, Japan. Plants like Japanese knotweed and kudzu made new landscapes unexpectedly familiar to her.

Over time, Kato learned how these plants are extremely problematic invasive plants in the U.S., disturbing the health and diversity of ecosystems. Kato was fascinated by the fact that plants she knew to be useful became damaging simply by being in the wrong place.

Invasives are non-native plants introduced from elsewhere that quickly take over an area, out-competing native species for root space, water and nutrients. Their removal costs U.S. agriculture and forestry $34 billion in removal and production loss annually.

The cultural complexity of invasives appealed to Kato on a personal level, "I sympathize with them, even though they are subversive to local ecosystems."

Kato wondered what kind of conversation could be opened up in Northeast Ohio if the difficult process of invasive species control was made visible. This summer, as a SPACES World Artist Program (SWAP) resident, Kato is partnering with the Cleveland Metroparks on a participatory art installation located at both the North Chagrin Reservation and at SPACES.

Every year, the Metroparks deals with an average annual 11% ground cover of invasive species per reservation. In August, Kato will follow the invasive plant control team at the North Chagrin Reservation during a single day, as they cut back and spray herbicide on glossy buckthorn. As each plant is removed, Kato will mark the stump with reflective tape. At night time, people walking through the park will see the plant stumps reflecting back at them like animal eyes.

All buckthorn stalks removed that day will have their seeds removed, and be transported to SPACES to be displayed over the course of Kato's exhibition. Over the course of the exhibition, Kato will work with the public to brainstorm and experiment with ways to re-use the stalks.

Kato's work at the North Chagrin Reservation and at SPACES will allow audiences to contend with the sheer volume of invasives that threaten ecological health in our region, and the tremendous amount of effort that goes into controlling the damage.

Mimi Kato Installation at the North Chagrin Reservation
August 23 - October 18, 2013
3037 SOM Center Road
Willoughby Hills, OH 44094
Park Hours: 6:00 AM - 11:00 PM
Free and open to the public.

Night visitors are asked to bring their own flashlight or head lamp.

Buckthorn Removal Day at the North Chagrin Reservation
Friday, August 9 and Saturday, August 10, 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM
Rain Dates: Friday, August 16 and Saturday, August 17, 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM

Volunteers Welcome. Please contact if interested in participating.

Talk on Invasive Plants with Mimi Kato and Jennifer Hillmer (Invasive Plant Coordinator, Cleveland Metroparks)
Thursday, September 5, 6:30 - 8:00 PM
2220 Superior Viaduct
Free and open to the public.

Video and Streaming Media

SWAP # 44: Mimi Kato


National Endowment for the Arts Ohio Arts Council Cuyahoga Arts & Culture Cuyahoga Partnership for Arts and Culture 3M Cleveland Metroparks

More about this project:

Related Projects:


This project is a part of the SWAP Program.

The SPACES World Artists Program (SWAP) offers residencies to international, national and local artists who explore and experiment. SWAP supports artists in the creation, presentation and discussion of new work, while facilitating opportunities for them to collaborate with artists and audiences in Northeast Ohio.

Regional Artists, Apply for this Program.

My Neighbor's Keeper: Who Is Responsible for My Safety?
View Calendar

19 My Neighbor's Keeper: Who...

21 Feminists Coming Together

28 Questions of Safety Answe...