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The dramatic sounds of drumming from performance group Taiko Charleston welcomed guests inside the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (HICA) for one of Spoleto 2012’s first events: the opening of Motoi Yamamoto’s “Return to the Sea Saltworks” exhibit. Festival-goers may remember the Japanese artist from the Halsey Institute’s 2006 Spoleto exhibition “Force of Nature: Site Installations by Ten Japanese Artists.” For the past 18 years, Yamamoto has used salt—a symbol of purification and mourning in Japanese culture—to create art installations that help him connect to memories of his sister, who died of brain cancer at the age of 24.

While I’d seen photos showing works that Yamamoto had created in cities such as Athens, Cologne, Jerusalem, and Tokyo, I realized—standing with my toes mere inches from the intricate, lace-like edges of the installation sprawling across the Halsey’s floor—that I hadn’t comprehended the awe-inducing nature of his work until just then. “It’s just amazing,” said a super-enthused Tate Nation. He’d been setting up his own artwork in Marion Square for Piccolo Spoleto’s Outdoor Exhibition when his daughter called him up to urge him to come down to see the salt.

There seemed hardly a guest in attendance un-awed by the installation as well as Yamamoto’s drawings, paintings, and sketchbooks also on exhibit. Many visitors took the time to watch a video produced by HICA director Mark Sloan and Emmy Award-winning videographer John Reynolds. Definitely give it a watch if you haven’t already (view online here: http://halsey.cofc.edu/video/return-to-the-sea-saltworks-by-motoi-yamamo...), as it offers a glimpse into the artist’s process that will enhance your appreciation for the intricate, very personal work that he’s shared with Charleston and Spoleto audiences.

And to learn more about Yamamoto, sit in on his free “Conversations With” session with CBS News correspondent Martha Teichner at College of Charleston’s Simons Center Recital Hall tomorrow, May 26, at 5 p.m. For details, click here. http://spoletousa.org/events/conversations-with/

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