A new Executive Order 9066 traveling exhibition has opened at the Washington State Historical Museum, Tacoma. Told from the point of view of Sansei (third generation) Japanese Americans, it features eight artists whose work reflects on the effect of the order as it resonated from generation to generation.
While several of the artists in “Resilience” employ traditional Japanese methods in the construction of their work — Lydia Nakashima Degarrod’s use of boro stitching on works on paper; Judy Shintani’s kimono cutouts honored in ceramic vessels — others use iconography relating to Japanese culture as a jumping-off point for personal explorations on the subject of the incarceration camps — Reiko Fujii’s photographs-as-kimono; Wendy Maruyama’s columns of replicated camp ID tags. In their own way, the artists in this exhibition express moments of deeply felt pain and reluctant acceptance, emotions which were often withheld by their elders.
Other exhibition artists include Kristine Aono, Tom Nakashima, Roger Shimomura, Judy Shintani, and Jerry Takigawa.
Co-curated by artist Takigawa and curator Gail Enns, Resilience was conceived to serve as a catalyst to cultivate social dialogue and change around the issues of racism, hysteria, and economic exploitation still alive in America today. The eight artists featured were selected because of their personal connection to the subject matter, their work being well-respected within the JA community as well as within the art world, and due to their activism on the subject of incarceration camps.
Takigawa and Enns explain, “The Sansei generation is perhaps the last generation of JA artists that can be directly connected to the WWII American concentration camp experience — making their expression particularly significant in clarity of emotion. These artists lived through the years of ‘gaman’ or silence about the camps. That silence made a deep impression on the artists selected for Resilience.”
There will be related free museum programming on Thursday, Feb. 16, to commemorate the JA Day of Remembrance (box, p. 1). It will include an opportunity to meet and hear Susan Kamei, author of “When Can We Go Back to America?” This is a comprehensive historical narrative of the WWII imprisonment of more than 125,000 persons of Japanese ancestry. She will talk about the enduring impact of this shameful episode in our country’s history. Kamei will converse with Lisa Hoffman, a UW Tacoma professor of cultural anthropology. Hoffman co-authored “Becoming Nisei: Japanese American Urban Lives in Prewar Tacoma” (UW Press, 2020).
Washington State Historical Museum,
1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma,
2023 Day of Remembrance
Thursday, Feb. 16 schedule:
• “Resilience – A Sansei Sense of Legacy” Exhibition, 3 – 8 PM. FREE
Evening program, 6 – 8 PM. FREE:
• Susan Kamei, author, & UW Professor Lisa Hoffman discuss “When Can We Go Back to America?”
• Performance of a short play, “Within the Silence” by the group, Living Voices.
• Exhibition Feb 4 – July 7
• Free Third Thursdays, 3-8 PM
• See also the “Remembrance” E.O. 9066 permanent exhibit