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.

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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.

 

 

Altered cultural and everyday objects express liminality

At the reception, I had a few people want to have access to my artist statement,
so I decided to post it here.

photo by Susan Friedman

I dedicate this exhibition, “In Liminal Space”
at Enso Art Gallery 
to my mother Doris Shintani,
and to all beings in the midst of transformation

Liminality: “…in-between situations and conditions that are characterized by
the dislocation of established structures, the reversal of hierarchies, and uncertainty
 regarding the continuity of tradition and future outcomes.” ~ Arnold van Gennep 

I alter cultural and everyday objects to construct stories to reflect our current times and to offer space to ponder and question. These installations are an expression of the ongoing process of destruction and creation.

In Japan, when a woman puts on a kimono it becomes part of her body. Though the kimono appears to be a flowing and simple gown, the layers that bind the woman’s breasts and the rest of her body makes for a very constricting uniform. Breathing is difficult and only small steps may be taken. The restrictive nature of wearing of it is thought to instill tranquility and peacefulness.

As I cut away the red flowers and leaves from the ivory kimono, I felt somewhat uncomfortable. I am destroying a symbol of my Japanese culture. I wonder, who was the woman who wore it? What was her life like?

I cut out the black flower pattern from this used kimono that was gifted to me.

photo by Susan Friedman

The cutting becomes a meditation. I feel a connection to the larger community of women who create and mend clothing. However, I was doing it in reverse…I was taking it apart.

My alterations reflect the loosening connection to my ancestry and culture, and the kimono is reduced to a skeleton, a web. The garment still maintains its elegant and simple structure even after deconstruction. I contemplate making more breathing space in my life to support a simple, healthy, and creative life path.

The kimono installation became a premonition of the Japanese devastation that was yet to come. The deconstructed garments represent not only the personal space but also the liminal space where the transformation of tradition, culture, and structure takes place.

This is the first kimono I cut up. I meditated on the loss of connection with my ancestors and culture

photo by Susan Friedman

The altered umbrellas question our concept of safety and shelter in a world of seemingly unending disasters. I long for an uncomplicated time when holding something over our heads protected us from what fell out of the sky.

The “Pearls Left Behind” installation created out of pizza rounds, conveys the connection of two war times – America’s war with Japan in the 1940’s and the current Iraqi wartime. Both of these events resulted in racial profiling, prejudice, deception, and death. Does history repeat or does it simply rhyme?

The “Vision Quest” ladder reflects my optimism that this threshold offers opportunity for evolution of human consciousness.

I hope my exhibit at Enso Gallery stimulates contemplation and discussion. I welcome your feedback.

 photo by Susan Friedman


A romantic Christmas story

Not only is it Christmas, but also my parents 54th wedding anniversary. Every year red roses from my father filled the house with sweetness. 

My mom said she rode the NYC subway in her white short dress on a cold Christmas morning to wed my father in a church. A couple of friends were present as witnesses. She had only known him for 3 weeks.

They left for Iowa the next day. It the only place my father could get a job in television and he wasn’t leaving without her. 

What brave romantic souls! 

We remember you mom. 

Kids and seniors create their own story

If the slideshow stops, click on the “x” in the circle in the upper right corner of the show.

Well what a fun and creative blast we had! I recently facilitated an Inter-generational Art class with Coastside Children’s Programs and Coastside Adult Day Health Center.

Why intergenerational art? I think it is important and therapeutic for different ages to have experiences together. In order for communities to be whole, they have to have respect and understanding of all its members, no matter what their age. And with our current lifestyles, many of us are miles away from our families and do not get a chance to be with our different generations. My parents are in Nevada and my mother has Alzheimer’s disease, so I have compassion and understanding for families in this situation. When my mother was living closer and at home, she and I did some art together and it allowed us to communicate in a whole new way and in the moment. I really wanted to bring this intergenerational experience out into the world.

The process – Like when you bring any kind of group together, everyone was a little shy at first, but once we got going the markers and pastels were scribbling with vigor. First we sat in a circle with interspersed seniors and kids, and did introductions. Everyone announced their favorite color and I think blue won as the most popular. Then we passed a special talking object, so when it was their turn, each person contributed to a story we made up together. I really wanted to create something together in the here and now. That way no one had to remember anything since we were making a new story. If anyone got stuck when it was their turn, some one helped out with an idea.

Communication was an issue we worked with. One of the centers assistants reminded me to speak loudly so all the seniors could hear and Emma from the children’s group did some translation into Spanish so everyone could understand and contribute.

After we finished with the story, I read it out loud to the group and then they started drawing. We made sure all the characters and activities in the story were in the drawing. The canvas was a large white paper which was taped on the round table. As the large communal art piece developed, it became a mandala of intergenerational creativity, a mutual story of their own.

The seniors asked the kids about some of their drawing and they responded with pride, explaining their art. Some of the seniors and kids worked together, each drawing their own versions of some of the characters and comparing them.

At the end of the hour, the Coastside Children sang “itsy bitsy spider” in English and Spanish, as a thank you to the Seniors.

To finish the story mandalas I added some stitching along the edges and wrote the stories in a spiral for the centers.

Here are the two stories created by the kids and seniors:

THE SNAKE, HER FRIEND, AND THE ELEPHANT – Once upon a time there was a big storm and it was very rainy. A little snake and her friend named John woke up in the morning and looked out the window. They saw an elephant in the front yard. The snake and John took the elephant to the hillside to eat some grass. The sun came out and so did the flowers. They were pink and purple. They picked some flowers and took them to grandma’s house. She opened the door and said, “Thanks for coming to see me!” Grandma cooked them up a bear. It was so salty; they had to drink a lot of water. Then of course they all had to use the potty. It was time to go, so they put on their raincoats again and ran outside. Next the snake and John and the elephant went to church to say some prayers. After a long day they all went home to see their mom and dad, who took them inside and put them to bed and everyone went to sleep.

PANCAKES AND MORE PANCAKES – Once upon a time there was a horse named Charlie and he had a pony friend named Michael. They woke up and had pancakes for breakfast and went out to have some fun. They played and played with a big green ball. After awhile they got hungry again and gobbled down some carrots. After their snack they went over to Adult Day Health Center to visit everybody. Charlie and Michael drew some flowers and some birds. Then they galloped over to see Dolly and she cooked them up some more pancakes, this time with yummy syrup and hot chocolate. Charlie and Michael heard a noise up in the sky and ran outside to see a butterfly. “Hi butterfly!” they neighed. Now it was time to go home and rest. “But, I don’t want to take a nap!” said Charlie. So Charlie and Michael played and played soccer till the sun went down. And now they were tired.

Here is the format I used for the storymaking:

Once upon a time there was a _________________named_________________ and he/she had a friend named_____________. They woke up in the morning and _________. They looked (up or out the window or where ever makes sense with the developing story and saw _______________ so they______________. ( Create the rest of the story and blanks to help develop the storyline.) Then they went to visit, etc ________________ and had a, or did  ______________. They ______________ and saw _____________. It started to get dark so they________________________. On the way back they ______________________. Why don’t we _____________said__________. So they _________.

Keep in mind you want everyone to get at least one turn to add to the story. While the story is developing write it down, so you can read it back to the participants so they can visually create the story.

Contact me, Judy Shintani, for more info on this project. I am available to facilitate Inter-generational art projects, children, and senior art classes in the SF Bay Area or can travel to your location.

Inter-generational storytelling class on the Coastside

I’m very excited about a class I am teaching in Half Moon Bay next week. In this Inter-generational Storytelling Class, Coastside Children’s Programs kids and Coastside Adult Day Health Center seniors will join together to develop a collaborative oral story. They will then make it come alive visually through creating a mural.

Storytelling is a multicultural way of communicating that I am interested in bringing back into our culture. Stories have been told for centuries by storytellers of India who would create story tapestries that they would travel with from town to town to share their tales.

Another example is kamishibai, which dates back to the 12th century, when Buddhist monks traveled Asia with pictures to enhance their stories and lectures. The modern version of this developed in downtown Tokyo during the Great Depression, when thousands of people were suddenly looking for work. Between the 1930s and 1950s in Japan, it was common to see kamishibai storytellers in parks, fields, or on street corners – wherever children gathered. It’s estimated there were once 50,000 kamishibai storytellers in Japan. Unfortunately, as television and movies began to lure children indoors, these storytellers gradually disappeared.

This storytelling project will integrate various kinds of creativity and collaboration, from speaking, and sharing, building on each others input, to painting, and sharing a canvas. The mural that the artists in the class create can be displayed and used for retelling the story in the community. Hopefully we will find a great place to display it.

IMy goal is for this is the first in a series of storytelling workshops because we all have many stories in us to create and share no matter what age we are. It will be exciting to explore this vehicle further through creating sculptures, photography, video, and movement.

One Stitch at a Time: The Healing Power of Storytelling

I am working on a research project about Art and Social Justice for ISKME and I am learning about the most incredible artists! I thought I would feature some of them on my blog.

Tonight I read about Devora Neumark. She incorporates performance, sound and photography installations, storytelling and community art. I like her “emphasis on active listening and the willingness to risk vulnerability as strength are integral to her art, teaching, and community organizing.”

The particular project that drew me to her was on the art and healing site:

One Stitch at a Time: The Healing Power of Storytelling

With her project “One Stitch at a Time,” Devora Neumark has been changing the world one stitch at a time thru careful listening. In the course of her on-going project, Neumark takes up residency in homes for as along as it takes to crochet a garment, decided upon in conversation with her host. While crocheting, she listens as the host recounts his or her personal history. The completed garment becomes the host’s and holds and honors the stories told. Her project is proof that one need not go far afield to make a difference. As an artist, Neumark believes, “The more we honour communication within our homes, the more we seek respect and trust within the social sphere. The more we are tolerant of difference in the social sphere, the more we can have consideration for ourselves and our intimates,” and ultimately contribute to the compassionate understanding in the world at large.

She says on her site that this process reminded her of her grandmother who used to silently crochet blankets, kleenex box covers, etc. “She was the one person who could listen without passing judgement. So when I literally take residence in the people’s homes, I hope I am that image of the grandmother, inhabiting a space of gentleness.”

Shirley’s mom

I had put out a call for “mother stories” around Mother’s Day and Shirley McClure responded with a story below. Thanks Shirley!

I remember being with my mom before I went to kindergarten and her teaching me how to write my name and a few other things that were about numbers. She spent time with me also showing me how to trace line drawings of horses and shapes. She was an artist and had a “Great Artist” correspondence course, which I later used to help me solidify my sketching skills. I had forgotten she spent that time with me and how much my ability to draw came from her from the start.

She did sketches that were assignments for the Great Artist course, and lots of drawings of us, her daughters when we were babies and young children, that we came across years ago, and that my sisters have. She had aspirations to be an artist and my dad supported her until she got a job which took her away from being involved with the family and then, because we were in the Air Force and had to move every three years, she gave it up. But she would doodle and draw while on the phone, and I picked up that habit too, and it led to me being able to do some self expression during the long years of school when I was bored and numb from sitting in classrooms. While I was care giving her, she began doing a lot of drawing. I have yet to find her drawings, but when they turn up I will find a way to do a show of them for her, the artist that never got to do a show.

Some People Project

This week the theme has been story telling for me. I came across this great website called some people.

Here is how Harrell Fletcher, one of the artists who started the some people project explains it:

The idea is that people select other people that they know or would like to know and make a web documentary about them. The documented people need to be alive and willing and really interesting in one way or another (and not already well known). My hope is that eventually the site will become a vast archive of interesting people that you most likely otherwise would never find out about.

There are a few documentaries on the site already, but I’m hoping people will start to add more and more–revealing otherwise hidden lives and creating new documentary approaches within the public space of the web.

The plan is that eventually there will also be Some People exhibitions, publications, radio pieces, and video screenings selected from the ever growing content on the Some People site.

Check it out. I found the stories very charming and interesting. Who knows, maybe I’ll put some up of my own about my favorite interesting people in Half Moon Bay!

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.