Biography

Big Head Denise Uyehara with image of Lillian Nakano by Marcel Schaap
Photo by Marcel Schaap

DENISE UYEHARA is an award-winning, interdisciplinary performance artist, writer, and director who investigates memory, time travel, crisis, and identity. Through collective and solo projects, and interactive installations she invites us to break and reshape the notions of who we are.

Uyehara’s work has been presented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, Highways Performance Space, and numerous venues across the U.S.; at The Institute for Contemporary Art in London, the Kiasma Museum, Helsinki, Tokyo, and Vancouver. She served as a guest speaker at the Obama Institute for Transnational Studies, Gutenberg University, Germany.

She collaborated with Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists as part of the Fifth World Collective in Shooting Columbus, an interdisciplinary performance inspired by interviews with community members from Tohono O’Odham, Yoeme, Dineh nations (2017). She and Indigenous performance and visual artist James Luna also collaborated on Ancestral Cartographic Rituals (2017) and Transitions (2012), the latter commissioned by the L.A.C.E. and the Getty Pacific Standard Time. In her Senkotsu Diptic she retraced her Okinawan ancestry: with visualist Adam Cooper-Teran to remix Okinawan and Cooper-Teran’s Yoeme origin stories in Archipelago, and examining the U.S. occupation of the Okinawan Islands in Senkotsu (Mis)Translation Project, an interactive, multi-year project in collaboration with body-based artists and Okinawan American community members in the Los Angeles region.
She worked with Jason Aragon, Pan Left Productions, and local Tucson artists to mount Dreams & Silhouettes/Suenos y siluetas (2104), which sprung from interviews with undocumented women in South Tucson, focusing on their lives as they live in the shadow of police and anti-immigration militancy.

She is a recipient of the MAP Fund, NET/TEN, the Asian Cultural Council, National Performance Network, the Brody Arts Fund, C.O.L.A. from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, and the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. A founding member of the Sacred Naked Nature Girls, she conducts workshops for artists and a wide range of communities – LGBTQ, women, people of color – and is a frequent lecturer at colleges and universities.

Her book Maps of City & Body: Shedding Light on the Performance and Process of Denise Uyehara (Kaya Press, 2004) documents her process. Her writings appear in numerous anthologies, including American Cultures as Transnational Performance (Routledge), O Solo Homo (Grove), Testimonial Plays (Bloomsbury), and her earlier works are accessible online through Alexander Press.