Tamao Nakayama - Japanese Artist

Tamao Nakayama was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, and moved to the U.S. when she was 25 years old. She is still deeply influenced by the Japanese aesthetic, and the belief that ‘less is more’. She is a minimalist abstract artist. She paints and sculpts.
From 2001 to 2004, Tamao studied art and ceramic sculpture at Santa Rosa Junior College, and studied glass, metal, and furniture design at Palomar College in California. She won scholarship awards from California College of Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology, Savannah College of Art and Design, but decided to move to Los Angeles for real-world experience instead. There she worked for furniture designers, interior designers and architects.
Since Tamao moved from California to Virginia in 2020, she has had group exhibitions at Target Gallery, Alexandria, VA and Open Space Arts Gallery, Woodbridge VA. Her artwork was also selected for the Keep Prince William Beautiful Bus Shelter Beautification Public Art Project. She is currently actively working toward a career in public art.


As a girl growing up in Japan, I found it’s hard to be creative, as the culture was very strict about following rules. We all had to conform, and being different was a problem. I’ll never forget when, in school one day, my teacher painted my hair black because it’s natural color wasn’t acceptable. 

Thus at a young age I came to America to be creative, and stayed. Ironically I’ve found that what Americans like most about my art comes directly from my culture. The Japanese believe that “just because you want to communicate doesn’t mean you should say everything out loud”. And despite my flight from Japan, it is this sentiment which still informs my artistic style.  I try to communicate emotion using a minimum of lines and shapes. I say only that which must be said, and nothing more. Though I’ve run far from Japan, perhaps I am still just writing Haiku.

My signature sculptures are tubular ‘beings’, minimal figures that appear to express their own emotions. Some tell a story, some make people smile; all are playful and  emotionally engaging. The textures and colors are contemporary, yet soft and warm.

I also create two-dimensional art. My most recent experiments have been very large prints of very small paintings. I let paint mix on a tiny surface, then digitize the microscopic textures and expand them into large, colorful compositions. These can then be printed on a variety of media including canvas, transparent film, and fabric.

All in all, my art offers quiet joy at a time when most of us are heavily burdened by stress.


Selected Commissions


Public Art, Capitol Hill Arts Workshop-Cleveland Park Main Street-Woodley Park Main Street Partnership, ‘The Endangered Animals Project, an expansion of Alphabet Animals’

Washington, DC

Apr. 2023 – Apr. 2024

Public Art, KPWB and Omniride Bus Shelter Beautification Project – Clean Communities, Clean Waterways

Dumfries, VA

May 2023

Public Art, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Tenleytown Main Street ‘Art In Motion’ Project

Tenleytown, VA

Nov. 2022

Public Art, KPWB and Omniride Bus Shelter Beautification Project

Prince William County, VA

Aug. 2022


Selected Exhibitions


(group exhibition) The Open Space Arts Gallery

Woodbridge, VA

Apr./May 2022

(group exhibition) Hypotheses, Target Gallery

Alexandria, VA

Oct. 2021


Publications And Reviews


Prince William Living / Fox 5 Washington DC

Washington DC

Aug. 2022

Podcast Interview By The Trust In This Art

Baltimore, VA

Jun. 2022

Torpedo Factory Art Center, Exhibition Catalog, Target Gallery, Hypotheses, Target Gallery Artist Spotlight,  

Alexandria, VA

Oct. 2021


Recognition And Awards


Rochester Institute of Technology Trustee scholarship, Rochester Institute of Technology Grant, Savannah College of Art and Design Artist Merit Scholarship, California College of Arts Scholarship 






Art Major, Palomar College, CA

San Diego, CA


Art Major, Ceramic Minor, Santa Rosa Junior College, CA

Santa Rosa, CA



Please email me at
Thank you
-Tamao Nakayama