Home Community Kelly Akashi Eternizes Her Family’s Poston Experience

Kelly Akashi Eternizes Her Family’s Poston Experience

By Monica
For The North American Post

Photo Monica

“KELLY AKASHI: FOR­MATIONS” is now showing at the Frye Museum of Art in Seattle. It is the largest exhibition of the Nikkei artist’s work to date. It spans nearly ten years of work, from graduate school to recent research into the inherited impact of Japanese American incarceration during World War II.

You will be baffled by more than a dozen hand sculptures greeting you right after you enter the glass doors of the museum. Akashi has created sculptures of her own hand of which you will find many throughout the exhibition. They look extremely real to the extent that you see fine wrinkles and notice different lengths of fingernails. It is as if she has tried to capture and freeze a movement and a moment that are destined to change. This makes sense when you think about her having training in analog photography.

The most intriguing thing to me about the artist’s work is what I interpret as her attempt to eternize what will be lost to time — especially her family’s experience and memory of the wartime incarceration. For example, she cast three bronze branches from dropped limbs of trees in Poston —trees which witnessed and have been carrying a missing part of her family history in this camp in the Arizona desert. The artist herself did not get to hear this history from her father.

Several times in 2021, Akashi visited this former campsite where her father was incarcerated as a child with his family. Beside one of the bronze branches (“Witness, 2021”) is another sculpture of Akashi’s hand, this time cast in lead crystal, wearing her grandmother’s ring, resting on a stone from Poston (“Inheritance, 2021”).

▪️“Kelly Akashi: Formations,” Frye Art Museum, on exhibit until Sun, Sep 3. 704 Terry Ave, Seattle, Wed – Sun, 11 AM – 5 PM. (Free).

▪️Akashi’s work will appear in a new exhibition, “Kelly Akashi,” Henry Art Gallery, UW, Seattle, Sep 30, 2023 – May 5, 2024. Thu 10 AM – 7 PM, Fri – Sun ($0 – 20 donation suggested).

Monica (she/her)
produced the four-episodes “beyond generations” podcast series about Seattle Japanese Americans (napost.com, Feb. 2023). She received her MA in Communication from the UW in June 2023. Outside of audio-storyt
elling, she enjoys hiking and practicing karate.