A glass kimono sits in the middle of the room, made from 244 frames strung together with copper wire. Each frame contains photographs of artist Reiko Fuji’s relatives and friends, as well as the Japanese American community during their imprisonment. The piece represents around 125,000 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated in World War II (WWII) American internment camps.
Detained Alien Enemy Glass Kimono II by artist Reiko Fujii, has a glimmer that draws eyes towards it no matter where you are in the room.
“The glass kimono is using this real and damaging history, but it’s kind of rewriting it in a sense that I find uplifting,” said student gallery worker Grace Corcoran.
This piece and others are currently displayed as part of the “Never Again is Now” exhibit at the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery, located near the Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall. The exhibit, composed of both art and artifact, is co-curated by Professor Alice Yang and Martabel Wasserman.
The exhibit follows generations of activism from Japanese American women, starting with those who experienced WWII mass internment camps. It traces this lineage through their descendants, who continue to draw on memories of oppression.
“The scapegoating and targeting of individuals wasn’t just limited to the World War II experience,” Yang said. “It has continued, and women in particular have played a role in reminding the public of that history.”
Pledge of Allegiance by artist Na Omi Judy Shintani was created from collected wood from Tule Lake Incarceration Camp and attacks the hollow lyrics “with liberty and justice for all.”
Posters line the walls of the gallery depicting Japanese American women’s role in the Redress Movement, which began in 1978 when the Japanese American Citizens League formed a Redress Committee to demand accountability from the government. As a result, in 1988, Japanese Americans were awarded with restitution and official apologies for trauma caused by the internment camps.
The fight for justice did not stop there. Japanese American women continued the legacy of their predecessors through multi-racial solidarity, like formerly incarcerated women Chizu Omori and Nancy Ukai. Alongside indigenous activists, they went to an Army base in Fort Sill, Oklahoma to protest plans to separate families and detain undocumented migrant children.
“I think being able to meditate on the legacy this exhibit presents is super important, especially in the moment we’re in right now,” said Grace Corcoran. “What is the legacy of these women and activism and how can we learn from them and follow in those footsteps?”
This wood carving is from the collection of Lucien Kubo, provided to her by Shunzo Frank Suzuki and was previously displayed at the mess hall in Topaz Internment Camp in Utah. The text in the carving translates to “Imagining bigger space where they can freely move.”
In conjunction with the exhibit, the Pickard Smith gallery will host a panel and reception at Page Smith Library on Nov. 17 from 3-6 p.m. at Cowell College to discuss how preserving history can be tied to activism and art.
Students looking to creatively engage in activism can also attend Art Fridays weekly, where staff from the gallery hosts free activities that correspond to the current exhibit on display. This week, Kashvie Doshi spent over two hours crafting activism buttons and discussing the exhibit with the gallery workers.
“Acknowledging the people who suffered and representing them as well, it’s amazing, especially [through] art,” Doshi said. “I think sometimes what words can’t say, pictures can.”