Working with deep and wounded history

seeingSometimes it gets to me – working with the deep and wounded history of my ancestors. Today I had a good breakfast conversation with a friend. She understands the work I am doing about the Japanese Internment Camps in New Mexico at the Santa Fe Art Institute. She’s lived here in New Mexico long enough to know that there is rich tapestry of different cultures and communities and that makes researching and making art about the history of the camps even more complicated. Peeling the layers back can be raw, and seeing the crisscrossing histories of: the vets who were in the Bhataan death march and experienced the brutality of the Japanese army, the injustice of the American concentration camps imprisoning innocent people of Japanese ancestry, and the Los Alamos creation of the bomb that killed so many in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m wrapping my head around it after a month of research.

My friend said, “you are a flag bearer who makes sure people know the history so things don’t happen again.” Yet I find it so discouraging to see the Central American immigrant families being imprisoned right now.

Keeping my heart open is what sustains me. I hope to bring light and witnessing to stories of injustice and imprisonment for all kinds of people. My ritual performance will invite anyone to participate. More info to come soon.

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Visiting the Department of Justice Santa Fe Concentration Camp

IMG_1961_2It is always strange to go visit a place that does not immediately reflect the historical events that occurred there. Driving through the pleasant Casa Solana neighborhood in Santa Fe one would have no clue that before these houses were built, 4,555 men of Japanese ancestry were unjustly imprisoned here from 1942 to 1946. They were separated from their wives, children and families. Most lost their livelihoods and homes.

It is a beautiful Fall day. The light has a golden cast. We soon arrive to the Frank Ortiz Dog Park. It is made up of winding natural trails for hiking and dog walking.  My local guides, Japanese American Sue Rundstrom and Artist Jerry West lead me up to a ridge above the dog park and we looked down on the Casa Solana neighborhood.

A large grey granite boulder with a plaque stands overlooking where the Department of Justice Santa Fe Concentration Camp once was.

IMG_1977_2The plaque reads:

At this site, due east and below the hill, 4555 men of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated in a Department of Justice Internment Camp from March 1942 to April 1946. Most were excluded by law from becoming United States citizens and were removed primarily from the West Coast and Hawaii. During World War II, their loyalty to the United States was questioned. Many of the men held here without due process were long time resident religious leaders, businessmen, teachers fishermen, farmers, and others. No person of Japanese ancestry in the U.S. was ever charged or convicted of espionage throughout the course of the war. Many of the internees had relatives who served with distinction in the American Armed Forces in Europe and in the Pacific. This marker is placed here as a reminder that history is a valuable teacher only if we do not forget our past. Dedicated on April 20, 2002.

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Casa Solana neighborhood now where the camp once was.

I asked my friends why there are no signs directing visitors to the marker and why it is not listed on the trail map in the dog park. They said this was done intentionally because there was fear of vandalism. That decision was made over 10 years ago. I wonder now if there could be more signage and acknowledgement of the historical marker? More on that issue, and how the controversial marker came to be is an interesting story.

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Jerry West and Sue Rundstrom

Assisting Aging Parents Class

Wow this sounds like a great class! Wish it was in person instead of online though. Sounds like what a lot of us baby boomers need. I am thinking of taking it. Let me know if anyone else is interested and maybe we could have a group to talk/email about the topics.

Are your parents in their golden years? Learning how to help parents or other loved ones through their transition can prepare us for our own. This compassionate and comprehensive class will give you the tools, techniques, and insights for this passage. Growing older is a part of life. Some aspects are joyful, some bittersweet, some frustrating, some frightening. You will learn what to expect, what to watch for, how to deal with physical and emotional challenges, and where to find resources to help. You’ll understand the impact of retirement, learn how to choose a nursing home, and be prepared to deal with death. You’ll learn about financial and legal considerations, health issues, and family interpersonal relationships. You’ll be introduced to special communication skills, observation methods, and coping mechanisms to ease the burden for everyone involved. You’ll learn to handle most of the challenges you will face while coming to appreciate and cherish the privilege of the journey.

Check it and sign up here. Classes start: September 17 | October 15 | November 12 | December 10

Doris and Mary doll

I brought my mom (Doris) a present on my last visit to Reno. My friend and artist Judy Johnson-Williams made these wonderful family dolls for me in response to a family tree assemblage piece I did. I decided to bring one of the dolls to my mother who has Alzheimer’s and is in a full care facility. She speaks of her mother now and then, so I chose that doll to bring her. My grandmother, Mary, lived with my parents for many years, but the photo of her used on the doll was from a long time ago, when my mother was probably around 10. I wonder at what age my mother thinks of her?

Invitation to write a story about your mother

Since Mother’s Day is coming up, maybe you are thinking about your mom like I am.

I’d like to invite you to write a story, an experience about your mother. It could be a story you heard or an interaction you had with her. Anything really that you would like to share. You could add it to the comments and then it will be shared with who ever reads this blog and anyone you want to send the link to.

I’ll start off with a story about my mom…

momI really have my mom to thank for me being an artist and an art teacher. When I was around 3 or 4 years old, she was trying to find some kind of activity that I would like to do. First she tried swimming. I think she really wanted me to learn how to swim because she wasn’t so hot at it, even though she grew up in Hawaii. Well, I did not do too well at that. (Though I did learn eventually, but that is another story). Then she took me to ballet lessons. I was not too graceful, kinda an ugly duckling type, so that did not last too long. Well, what next? How about art? She took me to a wonderful art teacher named Donna. Donna was very kind and patient. I mostly remember drawing cats and dogs. After that I was constantly drawing. The refrigerator was covered with my art. All my aunts got letters stuffed with my drawings. As I grew older, my mom the teacher, would have me work on her bulletin boards in her class room. I learned to work large. The subject matter was anything from season themed to lessons on geography or science, what ever she was focusing on with her students. I’m glad she kept at it at an early age, to find the right fit for my interest and talent.