History, Healing, and Hope art workshop created intergenerational memories

I had the honor of facilitating and collaborating with Legacies of War on a History, Healing, and Hope Community Workshop at ArtXchange Gallery in Seattle.

I led a workshop exploring how art can be a powerful force in expressing history and personal experiences. Legacies of War is a non-profit that uses art, culture, education, community organizing and dialogue to bring people together and create healing and transformation out of the wreckage of war.

Legacies’ representative Sakuna Thongchanh and I spent a great deal of time on the phone talking about Laotian imagery and icons before settling on a tree to be the framework for the workshop. I constructed the tree in Half Moon Bay in California and drove it up to Seattle in my little Toyota pickup.

The morning before the workshop Sakuna and I collected various materials specific to Laos, to be used for the individual memory art creations – things like banana leaves, tamarind seeds, spices, papers, tea, orchids and rice. These were laid out beautifully on fabulous fabric, along with ribbons, and scissors, and threads, and photos.

Sakuna did a short lecture about her organization and I showed examples of how I use art as a healing and storytelling vehicle for my own family and culture. I then lead a grounding meditation and posed questions to help the participants form their writings and imagery for their memory art pieces. It was very special that different generations came together to work on this creative healing. The created works were hung on a Memory Tree structure.

The entire Memory Tree work  will now travel as part of Legacies’ educational art exhibitions, where more people will have chances to add their stories to its branches.


* 260 million cluster bombs were dropped on Laos during the Vietnam War, 210 million more than have been dropped on Iraq. * More than half of all confirmed cluster munitions casualties in the world have occured in Laos.(Source: Handicap International)

* Each year there continue to be close to 300 new casualties in Laos. About 40% of accidents result in death, and 60% of the victims are children.




Two pieces on immigration

I (Judy Shintani) just finished up two pieces which had to submit today to the Women Artists on Immigration Show. The show is organized and presented by Women’s Caucus for Art with the Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles.


This piece is called Motion. I am conveying the push pull nature of immigration. Events which may push some one to move to another location are: natural disasters, wage rates, war, genocide, abuse. Education, relationships, jobs, self expression are things that could pull one to move to another country, state, town. I wanted to convey these different motivations that cause a stream of people to move small distances or around the world. I think about my grandparents who moved from Japan to the USA. People have been immigrating for a long time and they will continue to do so. The deteriorating propeller gives that sense of time.

This piece is called Bottom Drawer. While I was working with my friend Carla to remove overgrown plants from their pots, all these lovely, crawly, dark, roots appeared. They were completely root bound and had to be pried out. They had grown around and around into a big ball in the bottom of the pots. It made me think of unsaid, unseen things. For example what were the experiences of my grandparents immigration? I know some of their hardships. I know they were imprisoned on American soil during the war, but these experiences I did not hear about from their lips. They either died before this could be communicated or were not discussed. Bits and pieces have been expressed by their children but I do not have the whole story. My life goes on and I acknowledge I am here because of their desire to leave their homeland and explore something else. I don’t think about it that often. We put a lot of things in the “bottom drawer” and they see the light of day when we decide to pull it open.

Thousands of clay figures in Aptos cemetery memorialize dead Americans and Iraqis

Standing in a sandbox on the lawn of the cemetery at Resurrection Catholic Community in Aptos are thousands of figurines representing Americans and Iraqis killed during the war that began in March 2003.

The 4,190 small white clay figures, each holding a U.S. flag, represent dead American soldiers. The 92,000 dark clay figures, behind the Americans like a shadow, represent Iraqis.

The installation’s creator, artist Kathleen Crocetti, started the project 41/2 years ago, and thought it would be an appropriate memorial on Veterans Day.

“I’m doing this to help people visualize the number of people killed in the Iraq war. We need a physical connection to that number,” said Crocetti, a Watsonville resident. “I thought we went into the war under false pretenses, and I can’t sanction pre-emptive war.”

Each figure is handmade and fired in a kiln that Crocetti, an art teacher at Mission Hill Middle School in Santa Cruz, has at home.

The war memorial will stay up at Resurrection until Dec. 7.

Read more about it by clicking here.



A refuge camp in the heart of San Francisco

Right now, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is bringing its outdoor educational exhibit A Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City to Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego.

Little Marina Green Park
(Marina Boulevard and Yacht Harbor Road; west end of Marina Green, east of Crissy Field)
October 15 – 19, 2008
9:00am – 5:30 pm

This event is free and open to the public.

Please allow 40-60 minutes for the tour.
Reservations are recommended for groups of 15 or more.

Guided by MSF aid workers, visitors are asked to imagine that they are among the millions of people fleeing violence and persecution in, for example, Somalia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Sudan.

The exhibit is made up of materials used by MSF in its emergency medical work around the world, including emergency refugee housing, a food distribution tent, water pump, health clinic, vaccination tent, therapeutic feeding center, and a cholera treatment center. It addresses questions such as:

  • Will I be safe?
  • What will I eat?
  • How do I find water?
  • Can I get medical care?
  • Where will I live?

Learn more about the issues refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) face with this interactive guide.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. If you are planning to come with a group of 15 or more please schedule a group visit for your city. Individuals are welcome without reservations.

Toy soldiers battle in YBCA’s 5th Triennial

The opening night for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts 5th Triennial (San Francisco) was a couple of week’s ago. I imagine it must be difficult to put together a show like this – a survey of what is happening in the Bay Area. So I applaud the hard work of the curators and the artists for putting it all together.

It was challenging to find the flow in the exhibit. Was the main connection location? These selected artists represent the Bay Area and perhaps that was the point – we have a varied eclectic group here, and I guess that is good!

One of the most profound pieces was by Brian Conely. His soldier installation with game pieces and strategy was intriguing. It included larger than life photo blow ups (no pun intended) of melted plastic army men heads which was humorous and sobering at the same time. Tied into the installation was looped news video of US forces bombing and bursting into Iraqi homes. I found this initially playful piece to be horrifying.

Searchinig around the YBCA site I found more info about his piece:

At Games Expo in Las Vegas on March 19–21, 2007, I asked a group of gamers to “play”/fight three battles from the war in Iraq, using recent information from Western and Iraqi news sites, and real-time reports from Iraqi bloggers. The gamers built a diorama that was used to represent a town in the Zarga region near Najaf for the first two games, and a neighborhood in Baghdad for the third. An onsite research team investigated and selected the scenarios.

The first game restaged an attack by a group called Soldiers of the Sky on a police barricade, on January 28, 2007, during the Ashura pilgrimage from Najaf to Karbala. This game was based on reports from Western news sources. The second game restaged the same event as seen through the eyes of civilians whose clan, the Hawatim, was involved. The last event followed a live hostage crisis that had begun in February, 2007, when Hannelore Kadhim and her son Sinan were kidnapped from their Baghdad home by a group called the Arrows of Righteousness.

I think the Triennial is worth checking out, but do not expect to be wowed. Read more about it here: http://www.ybca.org/exhibitions/

Women, Art, Politics show closing June 29

Judy Johnson-Williams and I went to the opening of this show back in March, and it is weird but I haven’t talk to one other woman who has seen it – SO GO IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT! It is a great show with some very provocative installations.

Organized by Yerba Buena Center of the Arts (YBCA), The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art & Politics showcases the politically charged work of a new generation of women. Emphasizing performativity, collaboration and coalition building, the works are influenced by the feminist ideologies and activist movements of the past, while also speaking loudly and clearly to the issues facing women right now.

Here are some photos I took on the opening night.

MK Guth’s Interactive Weaving Performance was loosely based on the fairytale character Rapunzel, whose braids act as a metaphor of entrapment and as a vehicle for escape. Groups of women braided and extended MK Guth’s hair and visitors were invited to write a comment on a white ribbon that were woven into the braid. With each new ribbon, the braid grew, creating new branches and configurations. At the end of the day, the braids were cut off her body and hung in the main gallery. MK had a special dress made to tie the braids to and supported the weight, over 100 pounds!

Swoon – one of my favorite artists, who uses cut out paper and applies it
often in public locations a la graffiti. Here she investigated the murders
of hundreds of women in Juarez, Mexico, and created an installation
featuring a portrait of one of the victims

war facts sweater

Artists include: Lisa Anne Auerbach, Andrea Bowers, Nao Bustamante, Tammy Rae Carland, Vaginal Davis, Eve Fowler with Math Bass, Deborah Grant, MK Guth, Taraneh Hemami, Miranda July and Shauna McGarry, LTTR, Leslie Labowitz and Suzanne Lacy, Aleksandra Mir, Laurel Nakadate, Shinique Smith, subRosa, SWOON and Tennessee Jane Watson, The Counterfeit Crochet Project organized by Stephanie Syjuco, The Toxic Titties, Jessica Tully, and RiotGrrl zines from the Independent Publishing Resource Center, Portland.

“Eyes Wide Open” Art Installation – human cost of Iraqi War, May 1-4

eyeswideopen 1 original















Eyes Wide Open, the American Friends Service Committee’s widely-acclaimed exhibition on the human cost of the Iraq War, features a pair of boots honoring each California military casualty, a labyrinth of civilian shoes to memorialize the Iraqis killed in the conflict, and a display exploring the history, cost and consequences of the war. Come to Kings’ Plaza in Palo Alto (corner of Hamilton and Ramona, in front of the City Hall) to honor and grieve for the lost lives of loved ones and strangers, near and far. An ongoing vigil with the boots and shoes will begin Saturday, May 3rd at 10 a.m. and continue through the day and night until Sunday, May 4th at 6 p.m.

The Eyes Wide Open exhibit will also be offered at Stanford Thursday-Friday, May 1-2.

Throughout the time the exhibit is out there will be a spirit of prayer, respect and peace sustained. Most of the time silence will be maintained, with occasional spoken prayers, music and quiet conversation.

To volunteer to be present for a 2 hour shift with 3 other people, click here.

They are collecting pairs of civilian shoes to represent Iraqi deaths and create the labyrinth. Please bring shoes to the Unitarian Church of Palo Alto, 505 East Charleston Road, Palo Alto, 94306. Call 650-494-0541 to make sure the office is open. Please securely tie or attach each pair of shoes together. Usable shoes will be donated to local charities after the exhibit.

Presented as a vigil for the whole community, the exhibit is sponsored by Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice, and co-sponsored by the Council of Churches of Santa Clara County, American Muslim Voice, Peninsula Peace & Justice Center, Mountain View Voices for Peace, and Declaration of Peace – San Mateo County. To add your congregation or organization’s name as co-sponsor, or to volunteer to help, contact diana@councilofchurches-scc.org.

For more info check out: http://www.multifaithpeace.org/index.php

Do Not Ask Me – Pablo Neruda

 Oh how I love this poem. I very much identity with what he is talking about.

Do Not Ask Me

Some people ask me that human affairs
with names, surnames and laments
not be dealt with in the pages of my books,
not to give them space in my verses:
they say poetry died here,
some say I should not do it:
the truth is I do not want to please them.
I greet them, I tip my hat to them,
and I leave them voyaging in Parnassus
like happy rats in cheese.
I belong to another category,
I am only a man of flesh and bones,
therefore if they beat my brother
I defend him with what I have in hand
and each one of my lines carries
the threat of gunpowder or steel,
that will fall over the inhuman,
over the cruel and over the arrogant.
But the punishment of my furious peace
menaces neither the poor nor the good:
with my lamp I search for those who fall:
I soothe and close their wounds:
these are the chores of the poet
of the aviator and of the stonecutter:
we should do something on this earth
because we were born on this planet
and we must arrange man’s society
because we are neither birds nor dogs.
And so, if when I attack what I hate,
or when I sing to those I love,
poetry wants to abandon
the hopes of my manifesto,
I’ll follow the letter of my law
accumulating stars and armaments
and in my steadfast duty to America
one more rose does not matter:
I have a pact of love with beauty:
I have a pact of blood with my people.

Pablo Neruda