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The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946
January 22 - March 30, 2008
The William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut is pleased to present through March 30, 2008. The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946. This powerful collection comprises 100 examples of art created by Japanese American internees who were incarcerated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent U.S. declarations of war. (eight: Himeko Fukuhara and Kazuko Matsumoto, Bird Pins, scrap wood and paint, National Japanese American Historical Society. Reprinted with permission from The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946. Copyright © 2005 by Delphine Hirasuna, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Terry Heffernan)
This exhibition is based upon a ground-breaking book, The Art of Gaman (Ten Speed Press, 2005) by Delphine Hirasuna, who is the guest curator and the speaker and guest of honor at the February 19th Day of Remembrance program at the Benton at 4 pm.
Viewed as potential threats to national security, men and women, children, the elderly and the infirmed, primarily from the West Coast, were given just a few days to put their affairs in order, gather only the personal belongings they could carry, and report to assembly centers at local racetracks, horse pavilions and fairgrounds. There they remained for four to six months while ten internment camps were constructed to house them in remote parts of California, Arkansas, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado.
The internees were imprisoned behind barbed wire, in inhumane conditions, guarded by armed soldiers. To survive, they turned to the practice of gaman (meaning "enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity"), and created the remarkable works in this exhibition. They carved sculptures of bears, birds and elephants, as well as three monkeys and a scholar; built chairs, chests of drawers, model ships and heart pendants from scrap wood; wove baskets from unraveled twine; made rings from peach pits and pins from shells and beans. What they created represents a deeply moving testimony to the nobility of the human spirit in adversity.
(above: Unknown artist, Heart Mountain, Wyoming , bas-relief carved and painted wood panel. Japanese American Museum of San Jose (California). Reprinted with permission from The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946. Copyright © 2005 by Delphine Hirasuna, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit: Terry Heffernan)
(above: Akira Oye, Cow Carving, pine, Private Collection.
Reprinted with permission from The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from
the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946 . Copyright ©
2005 by Delphine Hirasuna, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Photo Credit:
(above: Shigeo Naito, Interned at Poston, Arizona, Lion
Carved ironwood. The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese
American Internment. Camps 19421946 ; Lent by the Naito Family)
The Benton presentation is made possible with generous funding from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and in partnership with the University of Connecticut Asian American Cultural Center and Asian American Studies Institute. The exhibition was first held at the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Folk Art; the touring exhibition has been organized by the William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, and the Oregon Historical Society in collaboration with the National Japanese American Historical Society.
Simultaneously, the Benton will present three exhibitions that complement The Art of Gaman: A Place called Manzanar: Photographs by Anssel Adams, Manzanar and Tule lake: A Soundscape by Richard Lerman, and Pamina Traylor's Tagged.
A Place called Manzanar: Photographs by Anssel Adams
In 1943, distinguished American photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) captured through his lens the individuals, daily life, work, and pastimes in the Manzanar War Relocation Center, located at the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada mountains, approximately two hundred miles northeast of Los Angeles. Of his photos, Adams wrote when he offered the collection to the Library of Congress in 1965, "The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment. All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document." The Benton's selection from the extensive holdings of the Library of Congress are exhibited in conjunction with The Art of Gaman, further contextualizing the experience of the Japanese American internees. The photographs in this exhibition are contemporary prints from "Suffering under a Great Injustice: Ansel Adams's Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar," in the Prints and Photographs Division at the Library of Congress.
Manzanar and Tule lake: A Soundscape by Richard Lerman
This audio piece was recorded at two Japanese-American internment camps in California and captures sounds of the wind blowing through barbed wire, plants, tree limbs, old foundations of barracks and windharps.
Pamina Traylor's Tagged
Pamina Traylor's Tagged is a meditation on the nature of ethnic prejudice. Images are photo transferred onto solid-sculpted glass "tongues." The majority of the photographs are altered reproductions of photos by Dorothea Lange, taken for the War Relocation Authority during the period that Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated to internment camps. The "book" shows a family photograph from the Topaz Internment Camp, with the artist's mother shown as a young girl. The newspaper clippings, primarily from The New York Times, are about recent ethnic prejudice directed against Arab-Americans. All the clippings are from September 11, 2001 to 2004, when the work was completed. TAGGED is being presented as part of the on-going Dialogues program in conjunction with The Art of Gaman.
Selected special events
Films on a Sunday Afternoon @ The Benton, 2 pm, February 3 - March 2
Editor's note: Readers may also enjoy from TFAO:
TFAO also suggests these DVD or VHS videos:
Infinite Shades of Gray A video from Silver Eye Center for Photography about Japanese American photographer Toyo Miyatake that documents his own incarceration in Manzanar, with more than 10,000 Japanese Americans who were imprisoned in this remote desert facility on U.S. soil during World War II
Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray is a 30 minute VHS video described by the Japanese American National Museum as follows: "Produced by Karen L. Ishizuka. Directed by Robert A. Nakamura. Edited by Gail Yasunaga. Cinematography by John Esaki and Dean Hayasaka. Original score by: David Iwataki... Elegant and penetrating, Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades Of Gray positions this immigrant photographer within the canon of American Art... In Los Angeles, Toyo Miyatake is reknowned as Little Tokyo's foremost studio photographer. To others he is known for having smuggled a lens and film holder into one of America's WWII concentration camps and being the first to capture life behind barbed wire with a makeshift camera made of scrapwood. Yet it was his little known artistic pursuits before the war that honed his discerning eye. Miyatake's pictorial and modernist photographs are presented for the first time since they were exhibited in the 1920s and 1930s... Also included are never-before-seen images of Manzanar, the WWII camp Miyatake was incarcerated in, and recently-discovered home movies of Little Tokyo taken by Miyatake."
TFAO does not maintain a lending library of videos or sell videos. Click here for information on how to borrow or purchase copies of VHS videos and DVDs listed in TFAO's Videos -DVD/VHS, an authoritative guide to videos in VHS and DVD format
and this book:
The Art of Gaman: Arts & Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946 by Delphine Hirasuna (Author), Kit Hinrichs (Author), Terry Heffernan (Photographer). Publisher: Ten Speed Press (October 30, 2005) ISBN-10: 1580086896, ISBN-13: 978-1580086899 (right; front cover of The Art of Gaman: Arts & Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946)
"A photographic collection of arts and crafts made in the Japanese American internment camps during World War II, along with a historical overview of the camps"
-- Provided by publisher.
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