The Art of Gaman: Arts & Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946 opens Jan. 19th at The California Museum
Traveling exhibit features the concept of enduring difficulty with dignity while chronicling Central California’s significant role in an often overlooked chapter of American history
SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — Jan. 13, 2014: Guest curated by San Francisco-based author Delphine Hirasuna in partnership with the Japanese American Citizens League and with advisory support from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, “The Art of Gaman: Arts & Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946”opens on Sun., Jan. 19 at The California Museum. Based on Hirasuna’ 2005 book, “The Art of Gaman” published by Ten Speed Press, the exhibit explores the Japanese concept of gaman, or to endure difficulty with patience and dignity, through 120 objects made from scrap and found materials, while chronicling Central California’s significant role in an often overlooked chapter of U.S. history.
In the months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese Americans residing on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes and relocate to one of 10 internment camps located in isolated areas of the country under Executive Order 9066. Issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942, the order deemed California, Oregon, Washington and Arizona a military zone and gave the U.S .War Relocation Authority jurisdiction over people of Japanese ancestry living in these states.
“The Central Valley was California’s ‘ground zero’ in this lesser known chapter of history,” said Dori Moorehead, Executive Director of The California Museum. “Due to the large number of ethnic Japanese farmers living in the area, the valley had many thriving nihonmachi, or Japanese communities, ranging from a block of homes and businesses in places like Fresno to whole neighborhoods in larger cities like Sacramento. By the summer of 1942, however, these vibrant districts became ghost towns, leaving a hole in the fabric of central California’s culture and commerce. In Sacramento alone, for example, more than 3,500 Japanese Americans running 500 businesses were effectively gone in a matter of months. The exhibit chronicles this often unheard story through artifacts that personify the dignity and patience that allowed internees to endure the experience of internment and persevere despite their losses.”
Artifacts, over half of which were made by internees who had lived in the Central Valley prior to their internment, range from utilitarian items used to furnish living quarters to more traditional art as outlets of creative expression. From tools and everyday objects to illustrations, paintings, furniture, toys, clothing and more, works are on display created both by untrained and professional artists, including Chiura Obata, Ruth Asawa, Henry Sugimoto, Hisako Hibi and Suiko “Charles” Mikami.
“Many of the objects on display were made by people from Sacramento and surrounding areas,” says author/curator Delphine Hirasuna. “This is partly due to the fact that I grew up in Lodi and when I started gathering objects for my book and exhibition, I asked friends and relatives in this area first.”
“This show is about more than the internment camps. Included are works of amazing beauty made by ordinary people who had no formal training in the arts. This is an art show that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and pays tribute to those who rose above their plight and triumphed over adversity.”
In addition to the artifacts, the exhibit presents historical context through photographs, documents and films. The traveling exhibit, which was displayed in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2010 and has just completed a tour of five-city tour in Japan, will continue through May 11 at The California Museum.
ABOUT THE CALIFORNIA MUSEUM:
A self-supporting 501(c)3 non-profit, The California Museum — home of the California Hall of Fame — engages, educates and enlightens people about California’s rich history and unique contributions to the world through ideas, innovation, the arts and culture. Through interactive and innovative experiences, the Museum inspires men, women and children to dream the California dream and dares them to make their own mark on history. Open Tues.-Sat. 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Sun.: 12:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.; closed Mondays (except on federal holidays). Admission: adults $9.00; college students & seniors $7.50 with valid ID; youth 6-17: $6.50; children 5 & under free. For more information, visit CaliforniaMuseum.org.
Communications & Marketing Director
The California Museum
Archives Plaza | 1020 O Street
Sacramento, CA 95814