EO9066 and The Tag Project at Boise Art Museum

I am pleased to announce that my exhibition, EO9066, accompanied by my project, The Tag Project has been included in a large exhibition, “Minidoka: Artist as Witness” at the Boise Art Museum in Idaho.   My tag grouping, Minidoka, was acquired by the Boise Art Museum in 2015 and this marks the first time their acquisition will be on view in their permanent home.

Three of the artists included in the exhibition—Takuichi Fujii (1891-1964), Kenjiro Nomura (1896-1956), and Roger Shimomura (b. 1939)—were relocated to Minidoka from Seattle, Washington, with their families during WWII. Both Fujii and Nomura painted a large number of works during their incarcerations. Their watercolors, set in the terrain of southern Idaho, are dotted with barbed wire and guard towers, providing intense and intimate depictions of the Japanese American incarceration experience.

Also on view are large-scale paintings by Roger Shimomura, who spent two years at Minidoka as a young boy. In The Lineup, which portrays a group of men and boys queuing outside the lavatory, Shimomura intends to lay bare the uncomfortable and often humiliating day-to-day realities of living at Minidoka. In American Infamy No. 2, on the other hand, he means to expose the political and military mindset that allowed EO 9066 to go unchecked.

Selected works from photographer Teresa Tamura’s (b. 1960) recent book project Minidoka: An American Concentration Camp will also be on view. Tamura’s photo series documents Minidoka today and follows up with former residents. The first photograph she took for the series is a portrait of artist Roger Shimomura, which was taken at the Boise Art Museum in 2001—the same year that President Clinton designated 72.75 acres of the original Minidoka War Relocation Center as the 385th National Park Service unit.

I am very excited and honored to be showing with these individuals, and I look forward to seeing the exhibition.

I will be giving a talk on Wednesday, November 9th at 6 PM which will be held at:

Boise State University
Special Events Center

1800 University Drive
Boise, ID 83706

Tickets may be purchased at this link.

The exhibition opened October 8, 2016 and will close on January 15, 2017.

Organized by the Boise Art Museum

Sponsored by the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation and supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, the Boise Valley Japanese American Citizens League, and the Snake River Japanese American Citizens League.


The Tag Project is at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts Center for Community Programs in Maine!

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The Tag Project at Haystack’s Center for Community Programs, Deer Isle, Maine

Jenn Anderson hiding in the Tags!

Jenn Anderson hiding in the Tags!

This was a very cool installation because it is in a much smaller space, and the tag groupings really take command of the space.   Very nice opportunity to see this work in different situations.

Royal’s Don Wakamatsu Carries Lessons Learned from Grandparents’ Ordeal in Incarceration Camps

In a Fourth of July statement in 1945, President Harry S. Truman urged Americans to “honor our Nation’s creed of liberty” as our armed forces remained deployed around the globe helping douse the final smoldering of World War II.

“Citizens of these other lands will understand what we celebrate and why … others will join us in honoring our declaration that all men are created equal and are endowed with certain inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But the credibility of Truman’s words was diminished by irony, if not outright hypocrisy:

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, some combination of paranoia and racism had provoked the land of the free to herd, relocate and incarcerate more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans who would struggle to return to society.

Some 60 percent of them were U.S. citizens, and many of the others would well have been if not for the 1924 Oriental Exclusion Act.

None of this dehumanizing treatment, none of the images of abruptly surrendering property and being crammed into trains and whisked away behind barbed-wire fences and being administered a convoluted, soul-draining loyalty oath, was spoken about in the home of Don Wakamatsu, the bench coach for the Royals.

Manzanar Committee Denounces Profiteering From Japanese American Concentration Camp Artifacts

Manzanar Committee

LOS ANGELES ? On April 12, the Manzanar Committee, sponsors of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage since 1969, and the more recent Manzanar At Dusk program, denounced the April 17, 2015 auction by Rago Arts and Auction in which artifacts from the concentration camps in which over 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unjustly incarcerated during World War II will be sold.

The auction, which will feature 450 prisoner craft objects, personal items, art works and heritage artifacts from the camps, were given to Allen H. Eaton, the original collector, under the assumption that they would be put on exhibit to educate people about the Japanese American Incarceration experience.

?They offered to give me things to the point of embarrassment, but not to sell them,? Eaton wrote in his book, Beauty Behind Barbed Wire: The Arts of the Japanese In Our War Relocation Camps, published in 1952.

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Wendy Maruyama: Executive Order 9066 at San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design

Opens October 4 through January 4, 2015

Organized by the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston, Massachusetts, the Museum of Craft and Design is the final stop of this traveling exhibition funded by the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the internment of tens of thousands of American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry.  Wendy Maruyama, a third generation Japanese-American and highly regarded artist/furniture maker based in San Diego, has created a compelling body of work examining this period in American history.

Wendy Maruyama: Executive Order 9066 includes three integrated parts: the Tag Project, Executive Order 9066 and a selection of historical artifacts.

The Tag Project consists of 120,000 replicas of the paper identification tags that internees were forced to wear when they were being relocated. The tags are grouped into ten sculptural bundles and suspended from the ceiling, each bundle represents one of the camps.  They evoke a powerful sense of the humiliation endured by the internees and the sheer numbers of those displaced.

Executive Order 9066 involves a series of wall-mounted cabinets and sculptures referencing themes common in the interment camps. Maruyama’s pieces integrate photo transfers based on the documentary photographs of Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake in conjunction with materials such as barbed wire, tarpaper and domestic objects.

Maruyama’s addition of actual objects owned or made by the internees brings an intensely personal awareness to the impact of Executive Order 9066.  Included objects range from actual suitcases used by families during their relocation to an array of items made from available materials in the camps.

Organized by The Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, MA

Exhibit design: Ted Cohen

The exhibition and catalogue are generously funded by the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

The Museum of Craft and Design’s exhibitions and programs are generously supported by the Windgate Charitable Foundation and Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund.

A reflection on San Jose

I owe a great deal of gratitude to the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, ArtObjectGallery, and The Japanese American National Museum of San Jose for hosting The Tag Project and Executive Order 9066 exhibitions, and for increasing awareness of the incarceration of Japanese American citizens in 1942.   Cathy Kimball, the executive director of the SJICA went above and beyond in pulling together a stellar program around the exhibition.  In addition to bringing The Tag Project to San Jose, the ICA has collected audio recordings of powerful stories surrounding the government issuance of Executive Order 9066 and life at interment camps. Click here to listen to the storytellers.  They also presented a panel discussion titled Social Justice: Progress or Regress in America? which explores the emotional and societal impact of the WWII Japanese-American internment, the panel will explore the ways American society has progressed and/or regressed in terms of social and racial justice in our communities. What have we learned from our past? Is social justice still out of reach for many American citizens?  How can we individually shape the future of our communities?  Information on this panel discussion is described here.  

The exhibition will close with a special performance by The Purple Moon Dance Project, who will perform When Dreams are Interrupted on May 25th.  

I am most grateful to all who participated in helping to make this event so successful.  

Executive Order 9066 Exhibition installation At ASU Art Museum

Executive Order 9066 opened at the Arizona State University Art Museum in Tempe, Arizona on Friday, September 27th, 2013. This will be the 4th venue for this exhibition. It was significant to bring this exhibition to Arizona, since two very large incarceration centers were located in that state: Poston was one of the largest camps at about 20,000 incarcerees, and Gila River held about 18,000. Heather Sealy Lineberry and her installation staff did a terrific job of installing this exhibition: the individual wall pieces were very well integrated with The Tag Project installation in this large space. The interpretive objects were seen on opposite ends of the gallery space itself. I have been intrigued with how different the exhibition has looked in every venue, all were quite wonderful and had its own character.

These photos were captured with my humble little iPhone but I hope to receive professional installation shots from the museum at some point.

view from the entrance of the exhibition

view from the entrance of the exhibition

Center front

Center front

Left Wall

Left Wall

Right Wall

Right Wall

My mother chatted with a visitor, whose family was incarcerated at Topaz, and she was able to find the tags of some of her friends and family. ASU Museum

On Sunday, my mom and dad (Reiko and John Maruyama) was interviewed by Claudia Katayanagi, a filmmaker who is working on a project for the National Parks Service, focussing on the Leupp Citizen Isolation Center specifically, but also about the whole incarceration of the Nikkei during World War II in general. She filmed an interview with Norman Mineta in July at the National Japanese American Museum symposium in Seattle, as well as Tom Ikeda of Densho, and historians Roger Daniels and Greg Robinson. Professor Tetsuden Kashima is a central figure and her mentor on this project. I was pleased for my mom, as she will have the opportunity to speak about her very difficult experiences having evacuated her home and did not go to any of the incarceration centers. I believe that she represents an invisible population of Japanese Americans who suffered great hardships that were different from those who went to these camps. My Dad was already in Colorado before the war broke out and so he brings a different perspective to the experience. Claudia interviewed me on Saturday, and will include me in a segment of interviews of several Japanese American Artists about their experiences and or interpretations of EO9066 for this film. IMG_1266

Ruth Asawa: 1926-2013

San Francisco artist and arts advocate Ruth Asawa died Monday night. She was 87.

Asawa was known for her wire sculpture and public commissions, as well as her activism in education and arts. She was known as the “fountain lady” because so many of her fountains are on public view.

“Ruth Asawa was a well-known and respected artist recognized all over the world for her innovative artwork,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement. “Her passion for educating San Francisco’s youth and families made her a true champion of the arts for our entire City.”

Asawa’s name was in the headlines recently when a proposed Apple store in downtown San Francisco threatened her “Hyatt Fountain on Union Square,” but the city rejected Apple’s plans and told the company to redo them to make sure the fountain remains.

In addition to the fountain, several of Asawa’s commissioned sculptures for public places endure, including the Japanese American Internment Memorial in San Jose and the Andrea Mermaid Fountain in San Francisco. The de Young Museum, which honored Asawa with a career retrospective in 2006-07, has dedicated the ground floor lobby of its tower to an ongoing display of her work.

“Ruth Asawa will be remembered for the extraordinary wire sculptures that so beautifully interweave nature and culture,” said Timothy Burgard, curator of American art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He characterized her “as a pioneering post-WWII modernist whose works have transcended the multiple barriers she faced as an Asian-American woman artist working with traditional ‘craft’ materials and techniques. She lived to see all of these confining categories challenged and redefined.”

Asawa was born on Jan. 24, 1926 in Norwalk (Los Angeles County), the fourth among seven children of immigrant truck farmers whom state law prohibited from owning land or applying for citizenship.

During childhood Asawa did farm work with her family and attended both public school and a “Japanese cultural school,” where she learned calligraphy and her parents’ native language. Her teachers appreciated her drawing ability.

When Ruth was 16, she and her family were interned along with 120,000 other people of Japanese ancestry who lived along the West Coast of the United States.   For many, the upheaval of losing everything, most importantly their right to freedom and a private, family life, caused irreparable harm.   Asawa’s father was separated for six years from the rest of her family, who were housed initially in the Santa Anita racetrack stables and eventually at an internment camp in Rohwer, Ark.

Asawa continued drawing and learned as she could from older internee artists. She completed high school in the camp and won a scholarship to Milwaukee State Teachers College.

After anti-Japanese prejudice blocked her path to mandatory teaching credentials,  Asawa instead entered Black Mountain College in North Carolina, an educational experiment that in its brief life span became a hotbed of artistic innovation. It attracted future luminaries such as Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, Franz Kline, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, Merce Cunningham and Bauhaus exile Josef Albers who, improbably, acted as Asawa’s mentor.

Asawa left Black Mountain after three years, emboldened to devote her life to art. She had met there, and soon married, architect and designer Albert Lanier (1927-2008), with whom she would have six children.  You can see her amazing work at this LINK

She served on the San Francisco Arts Commission and on the board of trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She received honorary doctorates from San Francisco State University, the San Francisco Art Institute and California College of the Arts.

For Ruth, the internment was the first step on a journey to a world of art that profoundly changed who she was and what she thought was possible in life. In 1994, when she was 68 years old, she reflected on the experience:

I hold no hostilities for what happened; I blame no one. Sometimes good comes through adversity. I would not be who I am today had it not been for the Internment, and I like who I am.