Hinan // Evacuation
The new body of work focuses on Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps and the consequences of Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942 during World War II. The show questions the physical and emotional effects left upon the Japanese American community and will include a film series of short documentaries on survivors in Gallery 4.
Solomon grew up in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara with no knowledge of the Japanese Internment Camps as a young student in California public schools. Her mother emigrated from Japan in 1971 after meeting her Jewish American father and she had some affiliation with the Japanese American community in Southern California. During this same period of history, the Holocaust was happening across Europe using similar tactics to capture a specific group of people based on their race. Although the outcome for Japanese Americans was certainly different with most being spared torture and execution, the parallels of human repression, fear and racial bias became of interest to Solomon in the production of this work. Upon further research she learned that there were relocation collection points near her home in Oakland and she could superimpose in her mind the lines of people waiting to be “evacuated” at these locales. Furthermore, our current political spectrum has brought a lot of racist, hateful, and illegal circumstances that have allowed for the attempt to pass laws much akin to the notions behind Executive Order 9066. In his first two years in office, Trump implemented the Muslim Ban restricting travel for specific ethnic groups while separating thousands of families at the US border. It has become clear that our nation is once again confronting, resisting and reasserting white racist and colonial ideals.
Some of the work in our show depicts evidence of racism in the signage from businesses that had to close and the maps posted and used to collect residents. In one large work a reproduction of a Western Defense poster reading “Instructions to all persons of JAPANESE ancestry”, is reproduced as a drawing with the word JAPANESE embroidered using a Sashiko stitch often used in Boro (the mending of clothing with small scraps of fabric). Other works focus on images from the camps that express human joy in celebration of the holidays and family ceremonies. Solomon became awestruck by the sense of normalcy keeping up with family traditions of observing harvest festivals, Boy Scout parades and Christmas perhaps as subconscious acts of resistance. In a series of paintings, different women who were declared Queens of their respective camps during a Harvest Festival are depicted with one crown displaying “Queen of Manzanar”. The women are dressed in fashion of the time, their hair coiffed in Western Styles, seemingly happy and carefree in contrast to their jarring circumstances. Other works such as 25 Tea Cups exist as a sculptural installation with the number 25 representing the total number of temporary and long-term camps. In thinking about how to keep things “normal,” Solomon realized that tea is such a major part of daily life for Japanese and she discovered there are 23 traditional tea bowl shapes. In this piece she made 25 tiny tea bowls out of white paper clay using the 23 different shapes leaving them white as if to act as a ghostly reminder. Each tea bowl has the name, active dates and number of internees written in gold on its face and is placed on a long wooden shelf. Overall, the show displays the high form of respect and self-discipline taught in Japanese culture in adhering to the laws of the camps and adapting to their restricted lives while honoring traditions mirroring what life would have been like out of the camps. The show is a powerful reminder of our government’s mistakes and the embarrassment of being involved in a World War partly in aide to those being forced into internment camps by identity all the while employing the same circumstances back home in the US.