I recently donated this paper cutaway to Gage's annual fund Collector's Gala March 4, 2016.
"It’s a huge one-night effort that makes it possible to engage Northwest teaching artists, build the best possible studio arts environment, and bring skill-building and mentorship to students of all ages, incomes, abilities and backgrounds."
Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture, in partnership with Seattle Public Utilities put out a call for the direct purchase of artworks that represent the experience of communities of color, and of immigrant and refugee communities for the Seattle Public Utilities Portable Works Collection.
They selected my paper cutaway entitled "Mother Asa" for the collection. This piece is part of my exhibition Castle Rock is for Lovers which showed in the alumni gallery at Cornish College of the Arts in 2014.
This body of work was inspired by a collection of photographs from my grandmother's sister beginning in the early 1900s, spanning our family's incarceration during WWII in a Japanese internment camp and the aftermath.
This particular piece is a portrait of my great grandmother, Asa, who was born into a silk dying village in Fukushima. As a young woman she became a picture bride, immigrated to California by sea voyage, and became the wife of a migrant fruit picker. Less than 20 years later she was incarcerated during WWII with her husband and 4 children. After the war she found herself starting all over again, having lost everything, in a housing project in rural eastern Washington. I'm pleased that this homage to my great grandmother will be part of one of the City of Seattle's collections.
Every night Nan and a small group of other men and women in their forties and fifties congregate around the white board, which we all refer to as “le tableau” in French, and study by the light of a single naked bulb.
Together we discover the world. We teach and learn Khmer (Cambodian), French, and English. We speak about our histories, our cultures, science, art, poetry, war, love, all the time taking turns scribbling furiously and drawing diagrams on the whiteboard. We exhaust pens rapidly.
Late in the evening one night after a long session, Nan turned to us and said, “I just now went to Paris. You were still sitting here in Pum Prey village and you didn’t see that I was gone because I went and came back so quickly.
I went to Paris by riding on le tableau. It’s much easier to fly by le tableau than to fly by plane because when you go by le tableau you don’t need money because you don’t have to buy gas. You only need a pen. You write the name of the place you want to go on the whiteboard, and you’re there.”
To learn more about The Antipodes Collective and our learning center in Pum Prey village please visit www.theantipodescollective.org
Tom Mayhall Rastrelli, Statesman Journal
5:19 p.m. PST January 15, 2015
Artist Roger Shimomura's earliest memory is of his third birthday in 1942. Born in Seattle, he was with his family in the assembly center at the state fairgrounds in Puyallup, Wash. But they weren't there for cotton candy. They were prisoners living in horse stalls waiting to be corralled onto trains and banished to the Japanese internment camp in Minidoka, Idaho.
"They were in such a rush to get us behind barbed wire that the camps weren't ready yet," Shimomura said. "They just built floors right over the dirt saturated with cow and horse manure. That stench was permeating."
For three years, Shimomura, his family and more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned. Shimomura said the mistake that America made of not being able to distinguish between Japanese enemies and Japanese Americans during World War II forever shaped his life, work and parents.
"They paid for it dearly. Two or three years out of their life erased," Shimomura said. "I think it screwed up my parents' generation in a major way. I think they lived with an inferiority complex the rest of their lives. They were so afraid of being themselves because they were punished for that. I never had Japanese things around me when I was growing up because my parents were afraid."
One thing Shimomura did have around him in his youth were comic books. Dick Tracy, Popeye and Superman filled his childhood imagination.
"I never read comic books," Shimomura said. "I collected the ones I wanted to look at.
"As a painter, print maker, and performance artist, Shimomura's range of work addresses the sociopolitical issues that have shaped his life experiences as a third generation American of Japanese descent," said John Olbrantz, Hallie Ford's director. "His remarkable body of work acts as a powerful and compelling self-portrait and window into the Asian American experience."
Shimomura named his last series "An American Knockoff" after his experience of never quite being accepted as an American.
"Something that Asian people suffer in this country, the presumption that they're foreigners," Shimomura said. "That's sort of the definition of a knockoff."
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