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Kataoka was born in Tokyo, Japan and spent her early childhood there. Her family moved to Washington D.C., United States, then onto Seattle and later to Silicon Valley. She attended high school at Sacred Heart Preparatory in Atherton, CA and college at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. She began her art education in Sumi-e early in Japan and later in the US, earning her han (signature stamp) from Sensei M. Iseke. She is based in Silicon Valley, California but also travels extensively to New York, Tokyo and Europe.
Kataoka's art spans brainwave installations, sculptural works such as her "magic boxes" and "membranes," and paintings.[clarification needed] A major theme in Kataoka’s art is building negative space. Her artistic philosophy revolves around the idea that a piece of art materializes only during the interaction of art object and viewer. Her works intentionally leave open, unfinished elements which serve as an invitation for the viewer to fill in the blanks and begin a dialogue with the art. Kataoka’s objective is to create works of art that will look different, and be rediscovered, during every interaction.
A second running theme is bridges, intersections and connections (discussed in her Art as a Social Bridge talk at TEDx Silicon Valley). It is that art has the power, through engaging at both emotional and rational levels, to establish unusual connections and stimulate creativity and innovation.
One of Kataoka’s basic beliefs is that to achieve a high quality of artistic expression, an artist does not need to sacrifice visual appeal in their works, (as discussed in her talk at TEDx Tokyo).
Kataoka’s early works were in the canon of Sumi-e. However, early on she started experimenting with depicting modern subject matter such as sports, dance, jazz, public figures. Wynton Marsalis commissioned her to create a suite of album art for his Sony Columbia record, A Fiddler’s Tale (see Wynton Marsalis’ remarks about Kataoka’s art). While at Stanford, she completed 27 commemorative prints including the official print for the 100th anniversary of the Stanford University-California Big Game, the print for President Gerhard Casper’s retirement gift, and the millennial portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for the King Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. Her commemorative prints are archived in the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries. Her painting of the Hoover carillon, I Ring for Peace is permanently installed at the Hoover Institution. She is a recipient of the 2006 Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute Award.
In January 2013, Kataoka unveiled a brainwave-smart glass installation in Davos. She also created a conceptual piece Up which incorporates Special Relativistic effects. Up was sent into space for the first Zero Gravity Art Exhibit at the International Space Station. She has developed techniques such as Magic Boxes and Shattered Mirrors to merge the art, its surroundings and the viewer in an artistic continuum (see her recent artworks). A conceptual piece she created for HRH Princess Takamado of Japan involved paintings on ping pong paddles which were designed to create associations with the Japanese flag. She has created portraits and commissioned artwork for companies and private individuals.
Conferences and speaking
At the 2011 and 2012 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, she presented solo sessions on her art and participated in panels on art and social media and art and illusion. She also had a solo exhibit of her recent artworks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, 2012. At TEDx Silicon Valley she gave a talk on Building Social Bridges through Art. At TEDx Tokyo she presented on 8 Lessons for the Art World from the Tech World.
Kataoka has created prints for various charities which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. In 2001, she endowed the Drue Kataoka Rotary Arts Scholarship which has been awarded to 11 artists. Other supported causes include the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Coaches vs. Cancer, Stanford Athletic Scholarships, Stanford CAL Camps for Underprivileged Kids, The Legal Aid Society, the Koret Foundation, the United Way of the Bay Area, the Black Community Services Center at Stanford, the Stanford Native American Indian Organization, and the Pacific Art League.