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For Alumna Claire Apana, Origami is an integral Part of Her Practice

Claire June Apana

Inspired by the work of M.C. Esher and drawing on her heritage as a mixed person of Hawaiian descent, Claire June Apana started making giant origami structures. IMPRESSIONS is an “American scale” installation that was shown at University of California, Santa Cruz’s Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery just before Apana’s graduation from the university in 2022. She has since created similar work that has been exhibited elsewhere such as the Weldon Color Lab in Los Angeles.

Apana’s childhood was one of division. Along with being hapa (mixed Hawaiian), she and her siblings were children of divorce. “Being between two cultures is a blessing and a curse,” she says. “You’re never fully integrated into either, and yet are entirely both.” Her childhood was when she first became fascinated by origami, which would become an integral part of her career.

Through her life and her work Apana used her complex background to break the confines of choosing an identity and to craft one of her own. “This has helped me to expand my own perception of self and allows me to create my own contemporary traditions that organically develop from my multicultural roots.” 

Apana chose UC Santa Cruz for its location. She wanted to escape the city and loved the idea of a university surrounded by trees next to the beach. “I loved being among the redwoods and riding my bike down from campus all the way to the Boardwalk,” she says. She calls her time at UC Santa Cruz a “dreamland” and fondly remembers taking breaks from the art studios and wandering around outside.

“My courses within the History of Art and Visual Culture and the History of Consciousness departments expanded my perception of the role of the artist within today’s society,” says Apana, reflecting on her time as a student. Though Apana’s focus was in art, she took a slew of humanities courses and she was “moved by the passion brought to these lectures by [her] professors and TAs.”

After her graduation two years ago Apana moved to Los Angeles where she works as an artist. She loves her work for her ability to constantly create. “I enjoy the entire process; to organize, to test, to set up, and most of all, to collaborate.” Not all of her work is in large-scale origami, but her inspiration in it can be seen in Life Corrupted, her photo series that digital folds and spirals images.

With her work she tries to help the viewer transcend time while being entirely present in the moment. Her goal is to display the constancy of change, which she often shows through destruction. “Destruction is an integral part of my creative process; to acknowledge that change is the only constant and that we ourselves are temporary.”

Apana says she spends her free time doing “art and crimes with the homies” and dipping her toes into several different projects at once. She is involved with two art collectives, Tyland LA and Forecast Foundation, where she helps curate events. When she’s not working on studio art, she is busy making music with her band, Paper Dolls.