Light as a Stone in Flight

South Bay sculptor Ken Matsumoto evokes nature and man in an earthy, Zen-like aesthetic
Light as a Stone in Flight
Throughout his career artist Ken Matsumoto has worked in a variety of materials, but stone emerged as the loudest voice. Here, in front of an added mountain backdrop, Matsumoto stands alongside two of his sculptural pieces for the 'Ikoi no Ba' Project, San Jose.
Light as a Stone in Flight
At the entrance to Matsumoto's studio.
Light as a Stone in Flight
Public installation 'Kneel (rock #1),' cast concrete with river stones, Sunnyvale (1985).

Ken Matsumoto found his calling almost serendipitously, when he stumbled upon a chunk of marble that had tumbled off a San Jose building that was soon to be demolished.

He took it home and incorporated it into a work of art.

It wasn't completely serendipitous. Matsumoto had been searching for something when he found the marble, only he didn't know what. He was on assignment for a class at San Jose State following these instructions: "Find a place to do art or find a material to do art with."

Clearly stone had called out to Matsumoto, and he had responded. And not since then has the conversation faltered.

Throughout his career Ken has worked in a variety of materials, from metal and glass to found objects, but stone emerged as the loudest voice in his work.

"After I discovered [stone], I just sort of liked what it was telling me and communicating, and that was it," he says. "It sort of fit what I was thinking, and it was pretty effective in communicating that."

Stone has been good to Matsumoto since he made it his primary material in the mid-1980s. He's made a living as an artist, in a city he says is inhospitable to commercial galleries. And he ought to know about that, as he runs what could be the largest commercial gallery by square footage in San Jose.

He's created a style that is readily identifiable. As one of his collectors, Lon Allan, says, "You see some artists, and you can see who they learned from. His work, it's Ken Matsumoto. It's not like it's by someone else."

Among Matsumoto's works are large public installations, including one at Arizona State University, in Tempe, of 30 tons of Arizona sandstone.

And he's built a good life. He's raised two grown children with his wife Joy. Joy's profession, Ken is quick to say—helping design a human-friendly-interface for hardware and software—made his art career possible.

Matsumoto got an MFA from San Jose State in 1983. He's done public sculptures and private commissions throughout the Bay Area and beyond, and has been in his present studio since 1996.