SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Discrimination damages both its victims and those who discriminate. Although the wounds may not be visible, they are profound, nonetheless. Wittenberg University Associate Professor of Languages and Department Chair Amy Christiansen has organized events that give tangible proof of the effects of discrimination through the works of Japanese American artist Henry Sugimoto (1900-1990).
Thirty wood blocks based on paintings done by Sugimoto while he and his family were interned in the Jerome and Rohwer concentration camps in Arkansas will be on exhibit from Jan. 16 - Feb. 28 in Wittenberg’s Thomas Library. Titled “The Japanese American Experience, The Years of Internment 1941-1945,” the wood blocks will be displayed in the new books section, Research Help Center, the A/B stacks and the Bridge on the third floor of the library.
Sugimoto knew he wanted to be an artist, and he left Japan at 19 to make his life in America. He studied art in the San Francisco Bay Area, Paris and Mexico and had become an established artist whose work was exhibited internationally before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was 42 when he and his family were taken to the internment camps.
Sugimoto’s life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience. His earlier depictions of the tranquil landscapes of California, France, and Mexico, gave way, “in subject matter and style, to a vigorous and fractured exploration of civil rights violated and the toll these violations took on his family and community.” (from the introduction toHenry Sugimoto: Painting an American Experience, by Kristine Kim, p. xi). Even his self portrait from these years seems to convey the new urgency of his role as artist in preserving the experiences of a community under siege.
Following World War II, Sugimoto moved his family to New York where he continued to paint. Sugimoto’s art often had social and political purpose, and he testified before Congress in 1981 when the United States government revisited its unjust incarceration of American citizens.
In addition to the wood block exhibit, a video on Henry Sugimoto will be shown to the following classes on campus during Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16. Showings will be open to the campus community.
9:50-10:35 in 300 Hollenbeck (Japanese 112, Imai)
9:50-10:35 in 329 Hollenbeck (Religion 134, Oldstone-Moore)
12:15-1:00 in 316 Hollenbeck (Japanese 212, Christiansen)
1:10-1:55 in 234 Hollenbeck (LANG 230, Imai)
2:05-2:50 in 329 Hollenbeck (Japanese 112, Imai)
3:00 in 300 Hollenbeck (Japanese 312, Christiansen)
In the library at 4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, his daughter, Madeleine Sugimoto, will speak to the campus community about the immigrant experience as she shows and discusses her father’s artwork. Refreshments will be served.
The Dayton Chapter of the Japanese-American Citizens League, the Faculty Endowment Fund Board, the East Asian Studies Program, and the Departments of Foreign Languages and Literatures, History, Political Science and the Russian Area Studies Program are sponsoring the exhibit.
- Phyllis Eberts