Acrylic and mixed media on birch, $90
On December 7, 1941, just hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, members of the American Japanese community were rounded up and arrested without evidence, and their assets were froze. In February 1942, Executive Order 9066 made it a practice to force American citizens of Japanese descent into 10 internment camps. I grew up no more than 80 miles from one of these camps (Minidoka, Idaho) and never knew of this dark era of our history.
I learned of the Japanese internment in high school when a friend completed her project on the Minidoka camp. I felt that there was no possibility of something this terrible being repeated in the U.S. I was wrong. In the last two years, seeing refugees interred on our border and children being ripped from their parents, families separated, and these people being placed in horrible conditions made me sad for our humanity. Have we not learned from history?
My painting “1941” depicts the heroic American citizen of 1941 with her child, eyes dark from worry and fear, not knowing what their future held nor why they were not worthy of being treated as a citizen or even as a human, trying to be courageous for her child. This piece was purposefully painted to look like an eroding old photograph, like the disintegration of the memory of our horrible past.
During the era of Executive Order 9066, the U.S. government hired, through their “War Relocation Authority”, photographers to take “happy” photos of the interred to publish to the American public to uphold their stance that the interment was not a terrible thing. One of them Dorothea Lange, famous for her photos of depression-era suffering. Dorothea took the role to accurately record what was happening. But few of her photos ever reached the public, and her pictorial evidence was impounded by the government and hidden away in the National Archives for decades. Lange was required to turn over all her prints, negatives, and undeveloped film. She was not allowed to take or publish photos of the guard towers, barbed wire fences, rows of guards with bayonets or the harsh conditions. Lange quit only a few months after her employment began. I wish that Dorothea was here today to accurately record how the U.S. is repeating history, and this time not be stopped from doing so.