Thomas Ken Matsuda traveled and lived in Japan over a 12-year period and apprenticed for two years under the renowned sculptor, Koukei Eri, creating more than 200 sculptures. Returning to America, he synthesizes eastern and western ideas in a contemporary approach, and carves traditional Buddhist sculpture. His art deals with the natural and human environment, addressing environmental issues, cultural relationships, and the integration of art, culture, and spirituality. He uses the five elements (fire, air, water, earth, and space) in eastern culture in his work. He has exhibited throughout the U.S., and in Latvia, South Korea, UK, Qatar, Egypt, Germany, Beijing, Hungary, Rumania, India, and Japan. His outdoor sculptures are in sculpture parks, universities, and city parks nationally and internationally. He was awarded a U.S. Embassy Grant to Lativa in 2011 and a Gottlieb Foundation Grant in 2004.
In residency at MacDowell he made rubbings and prints of charred wood from performance/ritual burnings of sculptures presented at Anna Marie College in 2019 and past projects including Abington Sculpture Park, Franconia Sculpture Park, and New England Peace Pagoda. Charred wood and blackened earth conjure up ideas of life, death, and rebirth; a reminder of war, destruction of the earth, corruption within ourselves, and the close relationship between purification and destruction and is a common theme in his art and one he built upon here. He also planned a performance/ritual collaboration and a gallery exhibition with a musician he met at MacDowell. He made drawings inspired by a 2018 residency at Haslla Art World in South Korea.