New Santa Fean friend Sue Rundstrom invited me to the Art and Remembrance presentation at the Museum of International Folk Art. Bernice Steinhardt movingly presented her mother, Esther Nisenthal Krinitz’s story of escaping the Nazis at the age of 15. Esther at 65, began creating fabric collage and embroidered art pieces, telling her history. Through film and photographs, we were able to connect and understand her resilience and courage.
A benefit of doing a residency here is the amazing and diverse group of creative people that #SFAI puts together, including people from different countries. Check more about the artists and writers I’ll be in residence with over the next month or two.
Woke up to a beautiful balmy day. There is an earthy serenity that I feel I belong to every time I’m on this land.
We took 2 days to drive. Starting in Half Moon Bay, CA we stopped in Barstow, and then continued on Route 66 to Flagstaff for lunch, finally arriving to Madrid, NM to stay the night at the home of our dear friends Glen and Eliane. The Supermoon and eclipse accompanied us on the journey, making it an extra special welcome to my artist residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute.
I’ll be out in the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico soon, starting my art residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute. I am so honored to be selected to be at this “hub of creative engagement and social change”. It’s astounding to me that I will be creating where renowned past residents like Richard Diebenkorn John Baldessari, Elizabeth Murray, Susan Rothenberg, Donald Sultan, and Joel-Peter Witkin did so too. I’m excited to meet the other artists I will be making art with in the studio, cooking with in the shared kitchen, and exploring with in this beautiful place.
I am not a stranger to the beauty of the big skies and vast high desert of New Mexico. I am looking forward to being in the wide open space and smelling the pinion smoke and eating the tasty cuisine. I appreciate the earthy architecture and the friendliness of the people and the sacred culture of the Native people.
It will be the first time that I will be away for this long from my partner, family, friends and community, and my abundant ocean that has been full of dolphins and whales during this special year in Half Moon Bay, California.
I am full of anticipation for what’s to come, to meet my self in this land, to explore a familiar story in a different place, to continue the creative healing work for my culture and my family. I invite my ancestors to be with me on this journey.
Sometimes it only takes a moment to change a stressful situation into one of light and faith. That happened to me today.
I was hurrying to eat a very delicious lunch of korma chicken curry because I had to get back to work. After looking 3x through my purse I realized I had left my wallet in my backpack at work. I wondered what the restaurant cashier was going to say. I was sweating and embarrassed. Was I going to have to wash dishes? Was I going to be late back to my new job? I gave him my business card and said, I’d leave my doggie bag and run back to work and bring back the money right away.
He looked at me with no judgement and said quietly, “just pay me next time you are around.” I couldn’t even believe it! I was stunned. He smiled and said I could take my doggy bag too. As I walked out the door, I asked him his name – “Krishna”, he answered. I thought, of course.
Before I put my leftovers in the work frig I wrote myself a note, “pay Krishna” – that made me smile. What he had given me was much more than what was in that styrofoam box – and it was priceless.
The restaurant is http://alhamrasf.com
Please go there – the food is wonderful and the people terrific!
I work with words in my art – memories, stories, and history. So when the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art Exhibition curator for the “Choice Exhibition” asked me if I wanted to work on displaying the letters, I said, “Yes!”
These were not just any letters. They were written by women describing their abortion experiences – charged, powerful, emotional, factual, empowered, sad, grateful stories. Women from twenty to eighty-something and from all over the country submitted their writing to the exhibition website.
My goal was to honor these women and their stories visually and to invite gallery visitors to read them. The colors came to mind immediately. I selected blue for its symbolism to water, emotions, the throat and communications. Violet and purple was picked for its connection to the seventh chakra, about peace and wisdom.
Each letter was read, formatted on the computer for fonts, margins, and type size. Some blue and purple color was added to each page, along with matte medium to strengthen the paper front and back. Then each page was punched top and bottom. Eyelets were added to reinforce their hanging connection using a papaya colored string. Longer letter pages were tied with gray string.
The metal stainless steel ring that supported the letter strands was purchased at Alan Steel. It had to be hack sawed and attached to create the circle.
I felt connected to each woman’s story. When I hung the test run in the outer room of my studio, a breeze came through and danced with the stories. The letters felt alive and released in the wind. A one point I stood in the middle of the hanging pages and the strength and emotions of the stories was very intense.
I deemed the installation a success as I watched women and men interacting with it and reading the stories.
At the last moment I decided to include a stool and a basket of blank paper with an invitation to viewers to write their own stories. I was surprised to hear that on the night of the opening reception, a brave young woman sat in the circle and wrote her story.
This installation is part of the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art Choice Exhibition curated by Kelly Hammargren. The show is about women’s reproductive rights and is at Arc Gallery in San Francisco. For more details on the exhibition click here.
I guess it is common to see your own art differently after it is up on the gallery walls. Stepping back to take some photos, I suddenly realized that all three pieces in the Generation Nexus: Peace in the Post-war Era Exhibition, were about my father, Kazumi Shintani.
I should not have been surprised since the exhibition is about victims of the US government’s concentration and confinement policies. The show is curated by Betty Nobue Kano and Janeen Antoine, who brought together artists of Japanese American and Native American heritage – Muriel Antoine, Fredrick Cloyd, Lucien Kubo, Emmanuel Montoya, Ruth Okimoto, Judy Shintani, Anthony Sul, and Hulleah Tsinhinjinne.
The exhibition is in the new historical Building 640 in the Presidio in San Francisco. The building was a secret Military Intelligence Service Learning Center, where Japanese American Soldiers were trained as military linguists in 1941, for the coming war.
I describe my work in this blog but decided to not show all of them, to just give you just a taste of what is in the show.
Portal The photo of my father, Kazumi Shintani, was taken in a farm field near the Tule Lake Segregation Center in Northern California. He spent his teenage years imprisoned there. At the time of the photo we had just concluded attending the Tule Lake Pilgrimage. It was the first time I visited this historic place that is so important to my family history and that of many other Japanese Americans too. The Pilgrimage was a time of healing, reflection, story telling, and acknowledgement for us and the other 300 attendees. In the photo my father is looking at a dilapidated barrack that originally was a home for some internees at the camp. The barracks were later removed and sold to returning vets to use for homes and barns. The wood from this barrack was offered to internee families before it was to be burned. My father and I scavenged some material for my future art making. It was a way to take a piece of painful history and transform it.
Pledge Allegiance The Tule Lake barrack wood represented a time when my father was imprisoned during his teenage years. I held on to the wood for 3 years. After much pondering, sketching and soul-searching, I decided to create an American flag. The pledge of allegiance phrase “with liberty and justice for all” rang hallow during the 1940’s when the US government forced the unconstitutional imprisonment of 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry into ten concentration camps. Tule Lake camp became a segregation and high security camp for internees who were labeled disloyal.
Currently many Japanese Americans, as well as other Americans, are alarmed about the state of citizen freedoms and racial profiling that is happening in the United States. It is an important time to stand up for our rights and make sure that history does not repeat itself.
Ancestor Chimes My father’s family settled in America and raised oysters in the Puget Sound. In this piece I honor these family members, most of who have passed on. On the oyster shells you will find their stories. Some of the ink may fade over time just as memories do. The shells dangle and move and our legacy travels to reach ancestors via the wind and the sound of bells. I imagine they are pleased to be reminded of the beautiful place they once inhabited. Their livelihood and time in Washington was cut short when they were unjustly forced to move out of the area due to their ethnicity and the war. They spent 4 years in the Tule Lake Concentration Camp. 65+ years later my father recalls happy times of living on a houseboat in Washington and enjoys bringing his children to visit his childhood locale.
The exhibition opens November 17, 2013, 1-3pm with All Nations Singers, Medicine Warriors Dancers, and Genyukai Okinawan music and shiisa.
Other events include:
November 23, 1 – 4pm Artist Panel
December 22, 1 – 3:30pm Winter Solstice Celebration performance by Harupin-Ha, Butoh Dance
February 1, 2014, 12 – 2pm Children’s Craft Workshop with Judy Shintani and Anthony Sul
March 1, 2014, 1 – 3:30pm EO 9066 Event: Film on Black Japanese Life
April 27, 2014, 1 – 3:30pm Ohlone inthe Presidio: Closing Ceremony, Pomo/Ohlone Dancers, Shellmound Walk
For more information: www.njahs.org