Tag Archives: Asian American Art

Photo Essay: ‘The Hope of Another Spring’

This Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month we are excited to share special features with authors and editors of new and recent titles that celebrate Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Today we feature a guest post from The Hope of Another Spring: Takuichi Fujii, Artist and Wartime Witness author Barbara Johns exploring some of the most powerful and intriguing pieces by Issei artist Takuichi Fujii (1891-1964).

Her book, published this spring, reveals Fujii’s life story and work and gives a telling alternative view of the wartime ordeal of West Coast Japanese Americans. The centerpiece of Fujii’s large and heretofore unknown collection is his illustrated diary, which historian Roger Daniels calls “the most remarkable document created by a Japanese American prisoner during the wartime incarceration.”

Please join us to celebrate the publication of The Hope of Another Spring at these events:

Wednesday, June 7 at 7 p.m., Folio with Elliott Bay Book Company, Denshō, and the Wing Luke Museum, Seattle, WA

Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m., Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Wednesday, September 13 at 7 p.m., Seattle Public Library, Central Library, Seattle, WA

Wednesday, September 20 at 7 p.m., Friends of Mukai at the Vashon Land Trust building, Vashon Island, WA

Friday, October 20 at 1:30 p.m., Walla Walla Art Club, Walla Walla, WA

The Washington State History Museum in Tacoma will present the corresponding exhibition, Witness to Wartime: Takuichi Fujii, from September 21, 2017 – January 4, 2018.

After the exhibition closes in Tacoma, it will travel to the Alexandria Museum of Art in Alexandria, LA from March 1 – June 27, 2018.


Takuichi Fujii (1891-1964), Chicago, ca. 1953. Fujii, pictured here in his early sixties, moved to Chicago after World War II. During the war Chicago became the center of Japanese America as the result of the War Relocation Authority’s resettlement policy. Fujii moved to the city after the war and spent the remainder of his life there.

Photo courtesy of Sandy and Terry Kita.

Fujii, High School Girl, ca. 1934-1935. Fujii immigrated from Hiroshima to Seattle at the age of fifteen, established a small fish sales business, and by the 1930s was a well-recognized artist. This painting pictures his daughter, a student at Broadway High School.

Oil on canvas, 22 3/4 x 29 in. Wing Luke Asian Museum Collection. Photo: Richard Nicol.

Fujii, Evacuation, 1942. Executive Order 9066, issued on February 19, 1942, authorized the army to establish military zones “from which any or all persons may be excluded,” targeting although not naming persons of Japanese ancestry. The mass forced removal began in late March, and by June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans on the West Coast were incarcerated under armed guard. Fujii began an illustrated diary that he would keep throughout the war, and here, shows his family leaving home.

Diary frontispiece. Ink and watercolor on paper, image 4 1/4 x 4 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Diary entry, 1942. Fujii wrote, “We arrived at the Puyallup Assembly Center. Those who had been sent here earlier greeted us from inside the barbed wire.” Fujii’s diary, nearly four hundred pages of text and images, gives a detailed account of the “camp” experience from an inmate’s perspective.

Ink on paper, 8 x 5 1/2 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Puyallup Assembly Center, Washington, 1942. Crudely built barracks on the Western Washington Fairgrounds and surrounding area housed more than 7,000 Japanese Americans from May to September. Meals, latrines, showers, and laundry were communal. Inadequate plumbing, noise, endless lines, and mandatory roll call were daily conditions.

Denshō, courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ6-1654, http://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-i217-00021-1/.

Fujii, Puyallup Assembly Center. In addition to his diary, Fujii produced well over one hundred watercolors that replicate or complement the diary drawings. He writes in the diary entry on which this watercolor is based, “The south side of the camp: the place where there was a tall watchtower.” His drawings and watercolors repeatedly trace the means of confinement and specify his viewpoint, positioning him as a witness.

Watercolor on paper, 4 x 6 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Puyallup Assembly Center, man standing by barracks. This watercolor enlarges a detail from the diary drawing, as Fujii continued to reflect on his experience.

Watercolor on paper, 14 x 10 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Minidoka War Relocation Authority camp. Minidoka occupied 950 acres of desert land in south-central Idaho and at its peak, housed over 9,000 Japanese Americans. This painting is one of three related images to picture this portion of the fence, including the tumultuous montage on the cover of The Hope of Another Spring. Fujii’s diary reads, “This is the barbed wire and [the scene] around Block 24.”

Watercolor on paper, 13 1/2 x 10 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Minidoka, pounding mochi for New Year’s day. At the end of December 1942, two generations of men pound steamed rice for mochi in preparation for the first New Year at Minidoka. An Issei, or immigrant-generation Japanese, he often contrasts his and the younger generation in his diary, but here, he describes their shared social celebration as “we pounded the [mochi] shouting enthusiastically.”

Watercolor on paper, 6 1/4 x 4 1/2 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, Minidoka, drawing by flashlight. Fujii pictures himself in usual perspective as he draws inside his barrack, as if to make the viewer a witness alongside him.

Watercolor on paper, 14 3/4 x 10 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, double portrait of himself and his wife, Fusano (on the left), ca. 1943-1945. This unique sculpted pair shows the strong, supportive union between Fujii and his wife. The dimensions suggest the wood was scavenged from fence posts when a portion of the hated barbed-wire fence was dismantled.

Carved wood, the taller, 9 x 4 x 3 1/4 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection. Photo: Richard Nicol.

Fujii, Diary entry, Minidoka, October 2, 1945. Fujii and his wife, having received eviction papers, await their departure from Minidoka to an unknown future. He describes the acute anxiety aroused by the announcement of the closure of the camps in 1945, particularly among the Issei, who had lost their homes, farms and businesses, possessions, and, for many of them, their health.  His diary is exceptional in recording his experience from the forced removal in 1942 to his leaving Minidoka as the camp closed.

Ink on paper, 8 x 5 1/2 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection.

Fujii, abstraction, early 1960s. Moving to Chicago after the war, Fujii continued to paint and experimented with abstraction in a broad range of styles. His work culminated in a series of bold, dynamic black and white abstractions in the last years of his life.

Enamel on canvas, 24 x 36 in. Sandy and Terry Kita Collection. Photo: Richard Nicol.


Barbara Johns, PhD, is a Seattle-based art historian and curator. Her previous books include Signs of Home: The Paintings and Wartime Diary of Kamekichi Tokita, Paul Horiuchi: East and West, Jet Dreams: Art of the Fifties in the Northwest, and Anne Gould Hauberg: Fired by Beauty.

Q&A with ‘Queering Contemporary Asian American Art’ editors Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe

This Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month we are excited to share special features with authors and editors of new and recent titles that celebrate Asian and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

Today we speak with Queering Contemporary Asian American Art editors Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe about their groundbreaking volume, published this spring, and corresponding website.

Queering Contemporary Asian American Art takes Asian American differences as its point of departure for bringing together artists and scholars pushing back against normative assumptions, expectations, critiques, and practices within Asian American art and visual culture. Taken together, these nine original artist interviews, cutting-edge visual artworks, and seven critical essays explore contemporary currents and experiences within Asian American art, including the multiple axes of race and identity; queer bodies and forms; kinship and affect; and digital identities and performances. The interdisciplinary and theoretically informed frameworks in the volume engage readers to understand global and historical processes through contemporary Asian American artistic production.

Why did you want to put together this book?

Laura Kina and Jan Christian Bernabe: Most of the contributors of Queering Contemporary Asian American Art met at a 2012 National Endowment for the Humanities supported summer institute entitled “Re-envisioning American Art History: Asian American Art, Research, and Teaching” at the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at New York University. There we discussed the ways in which we could advance the field of Asian American art history through our teaching, writing, and curatorial projects.

We were very fortunate to have listened to a lecture on “doing” Asian American art history by the late Karin Higa. In her lecture, she described those of us invested in the field as “the termites of art history.” It was a call to critique and nibble away at what we call in the book “the white hegemonic pillars of art practice, history, and criticism.”

We wanted to heed Higa’s call to find innovative and timely ways to work on Asian American art history and thus formed a group at the seminar called “Que(e)rying Asian American Art,” for which the title of our book is named. We saw intense interest by the members of the group to think about the ways in which queer theory could inform Asian American art criticism.

In many ways, the discussions we had during the seminar and at many conferences after the seminar had ended informed the creation of our book. We like to think that our book is a product of our termite activities.

What was it like writing and putting together this kind of volume?

LK & JCB: The process of writing the book was extremely intense but exhilarating! We invited seven authors to write critical essays for the anthology and in total we interviewed 17 artists, from emerging to established in their careers. We started the process of interviewing during the summer of 2014 with genderqueer and transgender artists in Chicago: Kiam Marcelo Junio and Greyson Hong, respectively.

We worked together virtually and in coffee shops throughout Chicago in the two years of the book’s production, and we made a point of organizing panel discussions at academic conferences with the various artists and scholars involved in the book as. There was a lot of transcription of interviews involved as well as selecting artwork to be in the book. Our last interview was in spring 2016 with Tina Takemoto, a San Francisco based artist who self-describes as a “queer, gender queer, gender nonconforming, Asian American dyke.”

What do you hope is the book’s most important contribution?

LK & JCB: We hope our book builds on a queer of color critique and advances the field of Asian American art and contemporary art. The book is a call to build queer coalitions of resistance, to push back against the dominant “model minority” paradigm in Asian America of assimilationist “good” behavior—of not making waves and being silent and complicit in the face of anti-blackness, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and so forth that pervades US culture.

What is your next project?

LK & JCB: We are currently curating a virtual exhibition inspired by our book for the Center for Art and Thought called “Queer Horizons.” In this current moment of political and cultural transformations, especially affecting people of color and LGBTQ communities, the show seeks to envision what a queer futurity looks like. This idea of a queer horizon, borrowed from the late Jose Muñoz, proposes what he calls “a greater openness to the world.”

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

LK & JCB: The artwork is the most important thing. On a basic level, we just want to introduce the important work of the artists and scholars in this book to a wider audience. On a broader level, we want to inspire readers to form their own queer coalitional politics; we are writing to bring together feminists and queer of color artists and scholars to take up our “termite activities” and keep on nibbling at the hegemonic foundations of art history.


Laura Kina is an artist and a Vincent de Paul Professor of Art, Media, and Design at DePaul University. She is the coeditor of War Baby / Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. Jan Christian Bernabe is the operations, new media, and curatorial director at the Center for Art and Thought. The contributors are Mariam B. Lam, Eun Jung Park, Alpesh Kantilal Patel, Valerie Soe, and Harrod J Suarez. Featured artists are Anida Yoeu Ali, Kim Anno, Eliza Barrios, Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, Wafaa Bilal, Hasan Elahi, Greyson Hong, Kiam Marcelo Junio, Lin + Lam (H. Lan Thao Lam and Lana Lin), Viet Le, Maya Mackrandilal, Zavé Martohardjono, Jeffrey Augustine Songco, Tina Takemoto, Kenneth Tam, and Saya Woolfalk.

Talking about Critical Mixed Race Studies in the Wake of Ferguson

In this guest post, Laura Kina, coeditor of War Baby / Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art, discusses the emerging discipline of mixed race studies and what it can contribute to ongoing dialogues surrounding race, police brutality, and social justice in the wake of Ferguson.

Since the deaths this past summer of two unarmed black men, Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York by white police officers, our nation has been embroiled in discussions of police brutality and racial profiling. The social unrest and racial tensions of our current moment are a stark contrast to the congratulatory “post-racial” moment in 2008 with the election of President Barack Obama–the first black “biracial” president. Recent racial tensions also present stark contrast to the celebration of the multiracial “melting pot” that America celebrated following the 2000 US Census, which allowed individuals to self-identify as more than one race for the first time.

Those earlier, problematic readings of race—as something to either get beyond or as something new and worthy of celebration—coupled with the dearth of history and representations of mixed race Asian American lives inspired my coauthor Wei Ming Dariotis and I to publish War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art (University of Washington Press, 2013). Along with my DePaul colleague Camilla Fojas, we also set out to challenge these myths and establish a scholarly field of Critical Mixed Race Studies.

In November 2014, DePaul University hosted an international conference—“Global Mixed Race,” the 3rd biennial Critical Mixed Race Studies conference in Chicago. More than 600 people attended, including scholars, artists, performers, filmmakers, activists, and students from across the United States as well as Canada, United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia. The conference featured two keynote speakers from Ireland: Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, author of Pure Beauty: Judging Race in Japanese American Beauty Pageants and coeditor of Global Mixed Race; and Zélie Asava, author of Black Irish Onscreen: Representing Black and Mixed Race Identities in Irish Film and TV. Through our partnership with the nonprofit organization Mixed Roots Stories we presented live performances and film screenings across the conference. This central inclusion of the arts prioritizes the importance of storytelling, the rootedness in the texture and affect of lived experiences, the world of imagination, and visions of alternative realities.

Closing remarks at Mixed Roots Stories Live Performance at the November 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies conference. Photo by Ken Tanabe.

Closing remarks at Mixed Roots Stories Live Performance at the November 2014 Critical Mixed Race Studies conference. Photo by Ken Tanabe.

Critical Mixed Race Studies is about recognizing the totality of one’s heritage—seeing race and systems of racism in the particular context of mixed race and talking about what this means for our lives and communities today, what it has meant historically, and what we might envision our futures to be like, and what we can do now to help in anti-racist struggles across many different communities. It reflects a turn to comparative racialization that challenges discrete categories of race and it is inherently tied to colonial and imperial histories, giving it a transnational and global focus that displaces the United States from the center of critical analysis.

The mixing of races is the result of various kinds of migration, both forced and at will, and it is the outcome of imperial expansion throughout the ages. Moreover, the idea of mixed race is not based on discrete racial categories or some cultural or ethnic similarities—e.g., food, customs, or language—or geographical location. Rather mixed race is a way of seeing that enables an examination of the comparative processes of racialization without resorting to any single defined group identity or place.

Our 2014 theme, “Global Mixed Race,” recognized this widening scope of critical mixed race studies in its comparative, transnational, and global dimensions. We are attentive to the persistence of racialized violence and the troubled history of racism in the US and the world as we explore issues of multiracial and mixed intimacies and contact along with the possibilities of global anti-racist political alliances among multiracial communities and their allies.

As the urgency of how much black lives matter fades from the headlines, it’s important for us to keep an intersectional focus on these issues. As Critical Mixed Race Studies and Mixed Roots Stories and many other multiracial community organizations collectively stated in November 2014 in support of the family of Michael Brown Jr.: “We are connected to these events and stand in solidarity with the many individuals and communities that have been harmed by the legacies of white supremacy, privilege, and racism. As community organizers, scholars, activists, writers, and artists, we remain resolute in dismantling racism through our work and actions.”

Laura Kina is an artist and Vincent de Paul professor of Art, Media, & Design at DePaul University. She is the coeditor, along with Wei Ming Dariotis, of War Baby/Love Child: Mixed Race Asian American Art. Her solo exhibition, “Blue Hawaiʻi,” is on view from January 27 through March 3, 2015 at the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery at New Jersey City University. Visit Kina’s website for more information.

Watch Critical Mixed Race Studies and Mixed Roots Stories videos from the November 2014 conference:

Critical Mixed Race Studies keynote address: Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain, “Mixed Race, Transconnectivity, and the Global Imagination”

Mixed Roots Stories keynote address : Zélie Asava, “The Black Irish Onscreen”

Mixed Roots Stories live performances

Recommended Reading

The University of Washington Press is the publisher of a number of recent and forthcoming titles that contribute to mixed race studies as well as ongoing dialogues about race, artistic expression, state violence, and black history:

Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements Across the Pacific
Edited by Moon-Ho Jung

Radical Theatrics: Put-Ons, Politics, and the Sixties
By Craig J. Peariso

Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora
Edited by Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, Lan Duong, Mariam B. Lam, and Kathy L. Nguyen

Stars for Freedom: Hollywood, Black Celebrities, and the Civil Rights Movement
By Emilie Raymond

Forthcoming Fall 2015:

Portland’s Black Panthers: Empowering Albina and Remaking a City
By Lucas N. Burke and Judson Jeffries

Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime
By Deborah Elizabeth Whaley