Japanese Internment Camp Art Featured at O St. Gallery

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For several years, I have wanted to share a part of American history not known to many people about the Japanese Internment Camps, instituted during World War II. I wanted to show this through art, but have been discouraged until now.

I discovered my love of oil painting in October 2014, and found my medium to express my dream. With the encouragement of my artist friends and teachers, I began painting my series in June of this year.

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I was born in Camp Topaz in Utah. Although cameras were considered contraband for the internees, many photographs were taken by photojournalists, and now they are a part of the National Archives for all to see. So that is where I have found my images to paint, except for one photo of my parents and brother that was kept by my parents.

I also realized that I am the last generation of Japanese-Americans who can tell about the real experience of this occurrence, and continue to keep this part of history alive. It is my goal to educate people, not to show disgrace to this country of ours.

There were more than 120,000 United States citizens from the Pacific Coast who lived in these camps, interned because they were of Japanese ancestry. They were considered a security threat during WWII.

Ten camps were built in remote areas of seven states: Tule Lake, Manzanar (California), Poston, Gila River (Arizona), Topaz (Utah), Mindoka (Idaho), Hart Mountain (Wyoming), Amache (Colorado), and Jerome and Rohwer (Arkansas).

Housing consisted of tar-paper barracks and were not insulated. They were guarded continuously by armed soldiers. My mother once saw an elderly man shot down when he walked too close to the fence. Hard of hearing, he did not hear the soldier’s command to stop. It is always the hope that this type of extreme racism will never happen again.

Fear, not evidence, many times drives us to do incredible harm to others.

Although I am still very new to oil painting, I hope people will see the emotions in my art and appreciate what I have tried to say.

If you’re going: Michi Takemoto’s artistic depictions of Japanese American internment camps will be exhibited at O Street Gallery, 1261 Oregon St., Redding. The artists reception for Michi’s work, and this session’s other featured artists, will take place from 6 to 8 p.m., Fri. Oct. 16 at O Street Gallery. 

IMG_0955 Michi Takemoto was born in a Japanese American internment camp during WWll.  The camp was called Camp Topaz, located just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.  She grew up on the south side of Chicago, Illinois.  She has a bachelor’s degree in graphic arts and a masters degree in social work. She is retired from a full career as a psychotherapist in Redding. 

She has been married for 41 years, and has two sons and one grandson.  Her husband is a retired graphic designer, her oldest son is a professional musician and her youngest son is a computer and fine artist.
Michi began oil painting a year ago.

With the help of art teachers, friends and family, she continues to explore this medium.  Michi’s art combines her interests in the human condition and the visual arts. Her most recent creative project is a series of oil paintings that depict Japanese Americans’ perspective of life in  internment camps.  Her hope is that the series will be educational, as well as an enjoyable visual experience.

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12 Responses

  1. Tbank you, Michi, for sharing your story, and expressing it through your art. I predict your series of Japanese American internment camp oil paintings will be sought after at other galleries, some far from Redding. We are so fortunate to have your work here in Redding through January.

  2. Avatar Carrie says:

    This promises to be an amazing exhibit! I can’t wait to attend the opening Friday evening.

  3. Avatar Peggy Elwood says:

    It has been wonderful to paint with you this past year and see your vision come to pass. I know the reception tomorrow will be a wonderful experience for you and the folks who come to see your work.

  4. AJ AJ says:

    Every time I read anything about the camps I tear up. I well remember going down to the rail road tracks to wave good bye to a group of families from our town that were being sent away. One of the boys was the student body president at the school my brothers attended.  As I recall, everybody was pretty upset about them being sent away.

  5. Avatar Lazlo57 says:

    Thank you, Michi. Wonderful paintings,  very inspiring.  We should never forget about the camps, and art never forgets.

  6. Chuck Prudhomme Chuck Prudhomme says:

    Wonderful show and article about a very  emotional piece of history that should not be forgotten!

  7. Avatar Richard says:

    We have visited the former camp at Tule Lake and the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial and found them to be very moving. Your work is superb, very poignant, and we look forward to seeing it tomorrow.

  8. Avatar Bob says:

    Michi,

    I am very proud of you!  This shameful period of history is most ironic because we condemn the Nazis for their internment camps, while at the same time we maintained our own — and both sets of camps were based solely on race.  Your witness reminds Americans that the potential for evil lives within all of us.  Thanks for your sharing, for your art, and for who you are!

     

     

  9. I got a sneak peek at your wonderful show, Michi. Thank you for sharing your story and for showing us the power of visual expression.

  10. Avatar Neil. B. says:

    We visited the TULE LAKE site this summer.  Hard to comprehend.  Tule lake had 18,000 people.  The U.S. even went through Central and South America taking people of Japanese descent back to the camps.  I had little previous awareness of this history!!!!

  11. Avatar Richard says:

    Great work, Michi. We really enjoyed the exhibition of your paintings last evening.

  12. Avatar Patsy Parker says:

    Hi Michi!  I have truly been thinking about you lately and had no idea you were painting!  I would love to get together with you soon if you have time!  I wish I had known you were there Friday night!  I will definitely be stopping in there to see your work soon.  🙂