Oakland Museum of California Apologizes

Thank you to Oakland Museum of California CEO Lori Fogarty for addressing my concerns about the recent interaction with the docent at the Dorothea Lange exhibition. I attended this tour with the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art who with me witnessed and experienced the unprofessional and insulting docent. Below find the comment Ms. Fogarty posted on my blog
Lori also responded to my personal email to her. She has some ideas we may explore together. I feel confident that the museum will be working to make sure this kind of experience will not happen again.  ~ Judy Shintani

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Finding my Activist Vocal Cords

IMG_1588I was given an opportunity to express my activism real time this weekend. Spontaneously speaking up and responding verbally is much harder for me than creating art. Being in an uncontrolled situation and putting myself out there was daunting. But I had to take action.

I was with a group of women artists who had booked a tour of the Dorothea Lange Exhibition at the Oakland Museum. As she approached the photographs that Lange took at the incarceration camps that imprisoned those of Japanese descent, the docent related that it made sense since Americans were in shock after being attacked for the first time on our country’s soil. I spoke up saying “2/3rds of the 120,000 internees were American citizens!”

Ignoring me, the docent went on the say how “things are the same now and something must be done about Isis. The Muslims did 911, but we can’t put all those Muslims in camps.”

I was in shock. As a daughter of parents whose families were in the Japanese American Incarceration Camps, it was as if history was repeating itself.

I said, “These people are Americans too!”

In hindsight what I wish I had said was:
‘What you are discussing is unconstitutional then and now. People should not be profiled as threats for having the face of the enemy or observing a particular religion. Incarcerating those of Japanese descent during WWII was unjust and it must never happen again.’

It was an awkward moment. One person in the group pointed how the German Americans were not put in camps, only the Japanese Americans.

The docent breezed through the room with the photos Lange took at the Incarceration Camps. I asked if she could give us more information on the photographer’ s experience. Her reply was, “No I cannot. I am not prepared. Look it up on Google.”

Later our group had lunch together and some of the members discussed the incident after the tour. Some felt it wasn’t the best place to get in a big talk on discrimination. We were there for an art tour. As I see it what better place to talk about racism and discrimination than among the photos that Lange took to bring these very issues to light?

Another point brought up was that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. I agree with that but found that point of view to be a stretch since we hired a docent to give us insight to Dorothea Lange’s life and art, not to tell us about her racist thoughts and stories about her personal life. And if one expresses their opinion, then they must be open to feedback on it.

To tell you the truth I felt alone when I stood up for what I believe and called out this injustice and discrimination. It was not an easy thing for me to do. I did not articulate my thoughts as well as I wished but I am still glad that I found my voice. It was as if time stood still for a powerful moment and hopefully my words resonated in people’s thoughts afterwards.

And now here are three things I am going to do as a follow-up to this experience.

  • I invite all people regardless of their gender, race, livelihood, religion, or income, to speak up against discrimination against anyone – even if it does not affect you. In reality it concerns all of us.
  • I am lodging a complaint against this docent to the Oakland Museum.
  • I strive to widen my activism to include exhibiting art, facilitating community projects, giving talks, AND speaking out strongly against injustice and oppression when it raises its ugly head.

Judy Shintani and Healing Art

Anyone who has lost his home to a climate of fear has a deep understanding of mankind’s capability for blind betrayal. The father of artist Judy Shintani was an American teenager when he and his family were interned at Tule Lake Incarceration Camp during WWII. Click here to read more.

 

 

Experiences ripple through all families, interview by Anna Vaughan

 

“Ultimately, I’m working with the idea of how experiences ripple through generations. The red line that traces us is like a lifeline that connects us. Experiences ripple through all families. It just so happens that in my particular family, a big experience was the internment. And I wanted the viewers to relate to that experience, by relating to their own family experiences,” Judy Shintani. Continue here: http://abramsclaghorn.com/?p=2596

SFAI140 – a challenge, a joy, a connection

SFAI140* challenged me to step up to the plate. I have done speaking about my work before, but having to distill my thoughts down to 140 seconds and convey them succinctly with timed images, took it to a whole other level. It was fun and gave me a sense of accomplishment. I appreciated the opportunity to be on the stage with some real pros and to meet the other presenters.

It was a pleasure to discover that fellow speaker and historical preservation architect Shawn Evans was acutely interested in the Santa Fe Interment Camp. He took my 1951 map of the Casa Solana neighborhood that had the internment camp placement on it and layered it over a current map. The two of us walked through the area of where the camp once was, looking at trees that may have been planted there. It was a bittersweet experience wandering around with him and discussing his feelings about living in the area with this history. If I were to come back he thought he could help me with having talks in the Casa Solana schools and community.

Many Native people spoke with me about their experiences with the camps, including a young woman who was inspired to go see the marker and go to the other NM camps, and a man who said his Native uncle was picked up and put into the Santa Fe Camp because he was mistaken for being Japanese.

After hearing me speak a Santa Fe gallery invited me to be on a panel on healing war trauma with creativity.

Speaking from the heart, expressing  your thoughts and what is important to you, is a challenge to accept and seek out. You never know where it can lead you.

*SFAI140 is an event that Santa Fe Art Institute puts on a couple times a year. They invite their residents and leaders in the community to speak for 140 seconds with 6 timed slides.

Santa Fe Internment Camp – Storytelling and Ritual Event

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During my artist residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute, I learned that the history of the New Mexico internment camps was not well known, and people wanted to know more.

My focus became, how could art bring understanding and connection to the communities in Santa Fe?  I wanted to inform the public about this history that has touched my own Japanese American family and invite people of other cultures to express their stories of displacement, unjust incarceration, and immigration journeys.

I decided to create an experiential space incorporating modalities like drawing, movement, speaking, listening, and re-enactment.

Participants were invited to create a presence for those they wanted to remember. Just the simple task of striking a pose of a loved one and being outlined in red crayon, connected the collaborators, and spontaneous memories were shared. These ancestor drawings on the gallery walls created a safe and sacred place for remembering.

It was a very moving event with many voices, quiet support, some tears, and an overall powerful energy of compassion. People traveled from as far away as Taos, Las Vegas, and Albuquerque to attend. The walking meditation lead by Eliane Allegre with the music provided by Glen Neff put the participants in a contemplative space to consider stories of incarceration, immigration, and displacement. 15 storytellers came forward to share internee memories and other difficult and heartfelt experiences.

The gallery event was followed by the visit to the Santa Fe Internment Marker. It was chilly, windy and clear beautiful day. We carried symbolic suitcases, like the prisoners traveling to a place unknown. Upon arriving the cases were opened and the folded cranes and flowers inside were used to embellish the marker. Historian and writer Nancy Bartlit and Victor Yamada of the NM Japanese Citizen League, spoke about the marker history and future plans to bring more visibility to the history of the New Mexican Internment Camps.

You may ask, why is it important to share this history from 73 years ago? In the United States today, we are still imprisoning innocent families, like those from Central America. In a world of terrorist atrocities, the backlash of racial and ethnic prejudice is rampant. We must find ways to understand and connect to each other and art is a powerful way to do it.

Thank you to all of you who supported this special sharing event. It couldn’t have happened without the team of Victor Yamada, Sue Rundstrom, Nancy Bartlit, Santa Fe Art Institute, Glen Neff, Eliane Allegre, and many others.

Thank you to the Santa Fe Art Institute for selecting me for the immigration artist in residence program.

 

 

On the road

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.

in Gilroy, CA
yummy road trip treats fromMalPina Cham
very dry San Luis Dam


  

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Super moon traveled with us.
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Finally at the Mine Shaft in Madrid, NM for a beer.

A gift of faith

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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!

Women’s difficult stories honored

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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.

A big thank you to NCWCA members Judy Johnson-Williams and Susana van Bezooijen for working the installation too.

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.

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.

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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