Homare Ikeda dreams his creations into being. In some ways, that has been true for his entire life.
The Denver-based painter rises at 4 a.m., makes coffee and puts brush or pen to paper, creating a new work each day and posting it to Instagram. His attention and his dreams during the quarantine have turned to small interconnections.
“Even when I go outside, I’m looking towards small things rather than large things. My sensitivity is moving towards micro things that people don’t pay attention to,” he said. “A lot of people are saying this is a good time to go inward. But I disagree. This is a good time to go outward, to keep finding community. We are interdependent.”
Homare knows something about isolation and the life-expanding possibilities of dreams. Born and raised on Yoronjima, a small island near Okinawa, Japan, Homare spent his days on the beach looking off to the horizon imagining the world beyond the place where the water met the sky.
“I first thought I should become a sailor so I could go from my island to see what is out there. Exploring was always my desire,” said. “After I left the island, my paintings became that way of exploring. My painting is the tool is use. I’m still trying to make that journey every day.”
Homare shares his exploration with willing fellow travelers at the Art Students League of Denver through his advanced painting courses. One of his students, Allegra Alahdeff, has been a student for 10 years. Each week, she takes two buses from her Boulder home to attend his class. Until the pandemic forced her to stay home, she had never missed a class.
“I love the way Homare teaches and I love being with him. He is a real master,” she said. “He’s very encouraging and can give me so many different ideas, like if you put just a point on the canvas or a line on the canvas from there you can build on it. You can start putting colors and shapes and look at in from different angles and turn the canvas around until you find something you can see and develop.”
Like Homare, Allegra, too has had her own life journey that brought her to a Denver studio. She was born in Belgium and fled with her family to avoid the holocaust. In the early 1990s, she moved to Boulder to be closer to family. It was around that time that she began to paint small, abstract pieces. Homare has helped her focus and hone her work.
“I don’t think I would be doing as well at this without Homare,” she said. “Being by myself is not the same as being in a class with other people and having Homare given me critique or ideas or encouragement. It is a different feeling to be painting alone. I would really like Homare to see what I’ve been doing here.”
In the coming weeks, Homare will be trying a new way of teaching, partnering with his wife and teaching online.
“I will be trying something new,” Homare says of the online classes. “I don’t know how that will translate yet. My classes are about providing the right environment and energy to help my students find their own direction. I don’t look at their work, I look into their work and encourage ideas. I don’t know what that will look like online.”
While this exploration of teaching will be different for Homare, he welcomes the opportunity to return to connection in that way. His own work in mixed media, printmaking and oils is fed by his teaching interactions along with countless other influences.
If this pandemic produces anything good, Homare hopes it will be deeper understanding of how much we rely on one another and a willing return to the “decency” that interconnectedness requires.
“I wish at the end of all of this, people would become more understanding of how much we depend on each other,” he said. “This is not time to separate. It’s time to come together. I hope that people will learn from this. Because I’m sure we are going to get over this pandemic. But we are still going to need to face the environmental issues and so many problems. I try to show this in my way of painting. I just want to be a decent person.”
Homare Ikeda works with a student at the Art Students League of Denver