A new adventure around the corner

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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.

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For my Father, new work at Building 640 in the SF Presidio

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.

for my father

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.

shintanidadandbarrackphotosmall

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

Sitting Between Heaven and Earth

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It started as a chair for my mother who is no longer on earth. I thought she would have liked this view on a hill overlooking the ocean. I wished she were still here to talk to. I have new questions for her, ones I wasn’t pondering before. I have new understandings I didn’t have before. I always wanted us to be peers, to be able to speak woman to woman. Now it can only happen between worlds.

May this seat hold me between heaven and earth as I face new challenges. May the earth and sky be my allies. May I have conversations with my mother as I look out to the infinite sea.

Other acts of Tico humanity

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Where else in the world would public art feature an elder overweight woman? Only in San Jose, Costa Rica have I seen this! The bronze statue, “La Chola” by artist Manuel Vargas, is thought to bring good luck if you rub her backside!

I also saw other things I haven’t before. As I was walking down the street I witnessed a young woman who had just Continue reading “Other acts of Tico humanity”

Light and honor the dark season with artmaking

 Light and honor the dark season with artmaking

The living and the dead join together

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An atmospheric space in-between worlds is glimpsed in this installation. Fragments of sound from crickets, voices of monks and Japanese instruments envelope Japanese lanterns, womanly silhouettes and floating deteriorating kimonos.  Obake Yashiki or Ghost House, is a dwelling place of spirits that continue to haunt us. They cannot find their peaceful resting place due to tragic occurrences during their lifetimes. The exhibition calls attention to women around the world whose lives have been taken due to earthly disasters and violent human interaction. We honor the spirits who are trapped between life and death in hopes they may find peace and resolution.

This was the statement for Obake Yashiki (Ghost House), A multi-media installation by Amar Chaudhary, Priscilla Otani, and Judy Shintani at Arc Gallery in San Francisco.

At our closing we were graced with the awesome Butoh dancers, Hiroko and koichi Tamano, who brought Butoh performance to the United States in the ’70s.  They performed with their student troupe Earth Child. Their amazing interpretation of our installation created a whole new way of experiencing the space. Time stood still as they took command of the gallery and we all watch, mesmerized.

I have to say it was a dream come true for me to see my kimonos dancing with the Butoh performers and to have the kimono flowers and leaves thrown in the air, releasing them from their altars. I had to smile when I saw people picking up the pieces as souvenirs.

Shintani’s Ancestor Chimes featured in Seattle Weekly

“Working lighter on the land means being fragile and vulnerable. For that reason, my favorite work here hangs almost unnoticed from fir branches near a picnic area facing the bay. Judy Shintani‘s gently ringing Ancestor Chimes are partly narrative, with text on oyster shell….”, writes Brian Miller

It’s great to get some press and I’m especially pleased that a photo from my Ancestor Chimes and positive feedback on the installation is in the Seattle Weekly. Carkeek Park has been a challenging venue for many of the artists and my heart goes out to them. Please read the review of the Rootbound Heaven and Earth Exhibition below:

http://www.seattleweekly.com/2012-08-22/arts/visual-arts-a-carkeek-park-art-safari/

New cutting

New cutting

It sometimes takes me a while to make the first cut into a kimono, but once I start, the piece takes on a life on its own, transforming and releasing what it once held.

To see some of the finished deconstructed kimonos click here.

Many steps and helpers to create Ancestor Chimes land art

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Photos by MalPina Chan and Judy Shintani

I’m always interested in the back story of how a piece is developed and created, so I’m going to talk about the process of making my Ancestor Chimes installation.

Concepting

The theme of the Center of Contemporary Seattle exhibition: Rootbound, Heaven and Earth, drew me in since a lot of my work is about family history, stories, and culture. Because my father’s family settled in the Puget Sound area and raised oysters, I thought that my work could tie into this show nicely. I created and photographed a prototype and hung them in a tree near my studio. I uploaded the photo and a write-up of my idea for the submission. It was accepted and I had a few weeks to get the piece completed and installed in Carkeek Park in Seattle.

My artist statement
My father’s family settled here in America and raised oysters in the Puget Sound. I honor these family members, some of whom have passed on. On the oyster shells you will find stories about their time here. Some of the ink may fade over time just as memories do. The tree is a symbol of the connection between heaven and earth, so it is holds up my family’s tales. The shells dangle and move and our legacy travels to reach ancestors via the wind. I imagine they are pleased to be remembered in this beautiful place they once inhabited.

Gathering Materials
The Ancestor Chimes is made primarily of oyster shells. This is not a new media for me. I have used them in performances and in assemblages. They represent my father’s family, hope, and nostalgia. They also represent loss and secrets. I see the oyster as a symbol of the deep feminine.

The gathering of the materials I’m using in a piece is done with a lot of intention and caring. I want to be conscious of what is used, how it is used and handled, because this infuses my work with energy.

Photo by A. Meyer

I originally wanted to create the piece using Washington oyster shells. Due to the short creation time, I came up with a different solution. My partner and I drove to Drakes Bay Oyster Farm near Pt Reyes. This was a family road trip destination when I was a child. There they have mountains of oyster shells I could pick from. I looked for flat, clean ones with mostly white surfaces to write on. I had to carefully select shells of the right thickness for drilling.

In the best circumstances I would have liked to have ingested all the oysters to create the piece. I like the process of sharing the delicacy with friends and family – in that way honoring community and the oysters. I symbolically was able to add some shells from oysters that were eaten by my partner and I at the Pt Reyes Station House Cafe. I also gathered friends and family in Seattle at Chinook’s to help me eat some oysters so I had some Washington shells to use my installation. That was a very special intersection of family, old friends, and new friends.

Other materials gathered:
– Brass wire that will hold up best in the weather and over 4 months.
– Bells gifted to me that had been hanging outside on my studio door for years.
– Florist wire covered by rope found at Alena Jean’s Nursery  a few blocks from my studio.
– Matte acrylic medium
-Metallic acrylic paint
– Sharpe metallic paint pen
– Tools: drill, wire cutters, brushes

The Making
I wrote out the stories before hand on paper and then figured out how many shells I needed and how many chimes I would create. It came out to seven strands of chimes and I thought that was an auspicious number.

I assembled about half of the chimes in my Half Moon Bay, California studio. I cleaned, drilled, and wrote family stories on shells and then used a brass wire to connect the chime parts. I used a jewelry method of wire connection, incorporating a way for the shells to swivel and turn with the wind and make it easier for viewers to read the shells.

COCA provided me with studio space at their Georgetown gallery so I could add in the Washington shells from the Chinook gathering.  I went through the process of cleaning, drilling, writing, wiring, and adding a coat of matte acrylic medium to protect the writing.

I did a final couple of hours of wiring in Suze Woolf’s studio. A fellow Rootbound artist, she was also kind enough to provide me lodging while I was in Seattle for three nights.

Scouting Location
Upon arriving in Seattle from California, I went with David Francis the curator for the exhibition, to see the spot he selected for my installation. My placement criteria: near the Sound and a tree to hang the chimes so that they could be seen and read by viewers.

We hiked up the North trail path that bordered the sound and could not find a tree that had low enough or sturdy enough branches for the installation. As we walked back towards the picnic area, David mentioned a spot near the entrance of the trail as a possibility, only thing was that it had a chain link fence with barbed wire. Bingo! Part of my family story was that they had to leave the area due to the Japanese American incarceration. This was the perfect location to support the bittersweet side of the ancestor story.

Installing
I was fortunate enough to hook up with fellow JFKU alumni and dear friend Leah Libow who helped me install the Ancestor Chimes. Borrowing a raincoat from Suze’s daughter Boo, we trudged out to the park in the rain wearing boots and hats. This was not just a light rain, there were big drops coming down. I stood on the very top of little stepladder on uneven muddy ground holding up strands of chimes, trying to figure out which branches to hang them on and how high. Some branches we could reach, others we threw the rope wire over the branch. This all took about 2 hours and we were pretty wet, but exhilarated by the conclusion of the installation.

On Display
The Ancestor Chimes are on display in the Land Art Exhibition at Carkeek Park until October 31, 2012. I’m lucky that so many of my Washington friends have gone to see it and also many California friends are vacationing in the area and are checking it out too. Here is the link to find out more and download a map. http://www.cocaseattle.org/h+e/ If you click on the photos on the map you can find out more about each piece. I’m number 8.

Thanks
I’ve had a lot of support in making this installation happen and I want to thank: COCA Seattle, David Francis, Ray C. Freeman III, Suze Woolf, Ander Meyer, Alena Whiting Barragan, Judith van Praag, Linda Ando, Leah Libow, Janice Ono, Damon Ono, Stacy Ono Avara, MalPina Chan, June Sekiguchi, Melanie Corey-Ferrini.