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.

Stop The Fence at Tule Lake – Please sign this petition!!

The Federal Aviation Agency wants to build a fence at Tule Lake, supposedly to protect the Tule Lake Municipal Airport from deer or crop duster planes.  There is scant evidence that there have been deer crossing into the runways.  Anyone who has been to Tule Lake will see that the area is pretty desolate already.

The proposed fence will desecrate the physical and spiritual aspects of Tule Lake. This massive fence will prevent Japanese Americans who while attempting to mourn their own past, will instead be assaulted with the reminder of rejection, exclusion and emotional pain. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, in an effort to be more “sensitive” to our concerns, the proposed fence would not be topped with barbed wire…. Please show your support that the most sensitive solution is to NOT BUILD THE FENCE.

Go to this LINK to sign.

Thank you!!

The work of Ruth Asawa

The work of Ruth Asawa

Ruth Asawa is an American artist, who is nationally recognized for her wire sculpture, public commissions, and her activism in education and the arts. On this website, you can learn about her life, her work, and her development as an artist.

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. 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.