Miya Ando, Obon, 2012.

Dorado Beach Resort’s east golf course’s periphery. Aquatic installation based in floating leaves made out of a glow in the dark resin.


“By utilizing renewable, ecologically friendly materials I would like to suggest that it is possible to create contemporary public works while protecting and respecting the environment”   

– Miya Ando

“The foundation of my studio practice is based on the transformation of surface by focusing to create works with light and metals. I have a deep appreciation for the dynamics properties of metal and its ability to reflect light. Simultaneously, metal conveys strength and permanence, yet in the same instant it can appear delicate, fragile, luminous, soft, and ethereal. The medium then becomes both a contradiction and juxtaposition for expressing notions of evanescence including ideas such as the transitory and ephemeral nature of all things, quietude, and the underlying impermanence of everything.” (Ando, Statement of Her works, 2011)

As part of arte_FITS’s Art in Nature projects, in 2012 the foundation was able to collaborate with artist Miya Ando for her project Obon [Puerto Rico]. “Obon made use of natural materials found at Dorado Beach to create Land Art water work”. In her proposal for Obon, Miya Ando explained that the concept was going to be the creation of small boats made out of Ficus leafs for they “served as an ecologically friendly, poetic notion of a floating, ephemeral boat utilizing native flora”. The Ficus leaf boats were glued to a net and coated with non-toxic phosphorescent pigment that was invisible in daytime yet visible at night when it emitted a soft blue-colored glow. This visibility was due to the sunlight that the pigment was charged with during the time of day. Since it was an ephemeral installation, the leaves only floated for a short period of time before biodegrading into the water and becoming part of the environment.

“This piece [Obon: Puerto Rico] is inspired by the ancient Japanese festival of Obon. The ancient event; which occurs every 15th day of the 7th month of the Lunar Calendar {mid-August}; is a three day ceremony made to commemorate and honor the departed. It is believed that during Obon, the spirits of one’s departed family members and ancestors return home and are reunited with their loved ones. Lanterns are hung inside the house to welcome the spirits and on the evening of the last day, the lanterns are placed on rivers in order to guide the spirits back to the netherworld. There is a beautiful non-denominational notion of respect, interconnectivity, history, and memory that is celebrated with the festival of Obon”.

Being Miya’s first installation in Puerto Rico, Obon [Puerto Rico] complies as a celebration to the island’s “natural phenomenon of bioluminescence”. Microorganisms called dinoflagellates that glow in the dark when agitated cause this element of bioluminescence. It is a rare and natural wonder permitted only under specific environmental circumstances such as: the tropical ecosystem surrounding the lagoon, water temperature, the lack of contaminants, and the relationship between the lagoon and the sea.

Miya Ando is a Japanese Russian-American raised between the two worlds, thus imbedding strong family traditions in her. The mix creates a “hybrid of modern techniques and ancient forms throughout her artwork”. “Obon is an ongoing installation project of public commission that plays homage to Ando’s family lineage of Buddhists priests and Japanese heritage”. The first Obon was a “design of resin cubes arranged in a haphazard manner throughout the East Haddam I-Park to evoke a fallen Sakura or Cherry Blossom” in 2010 by the name of Obon [meditation 1-8] at the state of Connecticut. The installation, just like Obon [Puerto Rico], would emit a soft glow in nighttime. A year later, Obon [Temple] was created. The second installation was placed surrounding the outdoors of the Haeinsa Temple in South Korea. The design, much the same as Obon [meditation 1-8], involved resin cubes that simulated a juzu; Buddhist prayer beads.

The fascinating fact about art is how it resembles, as a tribute, everything that is. Nevertheless, the astonishing ephemeral art not only follows this aesthetic but also becomes part of nature, forbidding it to be eternal. Miya Ando’s inspiration for Obon: Puerto Rico derived from nature and the connection with natural elements. “The purpose of this project serves as an opportunity to take a moment and become aware of the beauty in the transitory states of nature and life, as well as create an environment of serene reflection, wonder, and peacefulness”.

For more information on Miya Ando visit miyaando.com

Photographs by Lorraine Young

Works Cited

Ando, M. (2011). Proposal for arte_FITS.FOUNDATION for Obon [Puerto Rico]. New York.

Ando, M. (2011). Statement of Her works. Statement . New York.

arte_FITS.FOUNDATION. (2012). For immediate release. 2. Puerto Rico.

Lina Hargrett, A. W. (2013). Catalogue for Obon [Puerto Rico]. Obon [Puerto Rico] , 20. Dorado.