Witness to Wartime: The Painted Diary of Takuichi Fujii
On view through Monday, January 1, 2018
The Washington State History Museum is honored to open an exhibition of artworks by Takuichi Fujii. Incarcerated during World War II as a result of Executive Order 9066, his work sheds light on difficult events that most Americans did not experience, the lessons of which remain highly relevant today.
"What comes through more than anything else in the show is a sense of dogged if not joyful resilience. Fujii refused to surrender to the tragic circumstances in which he found himself ensnared. He continued to do his work of observing and making art from the world around him. As an artist, he was unstoppable. Seeing with the eyes of an artist, he transformed incarceration in a dreary encampment, set in a barren landscape, into what is now one of the most important documents of the American experience, an archive of images that gives the viewer a glimpse into the day to day existence of a group of people caught in one of the more regrettable episodes of American history." - Dave Davison, Tacoma Weekly, September 21, 2017
Takuichi Fujii drew and painted throughout the three and a half years of his imprisonment, from his forced removal in May, 1942 through the closure of Minidoka War Relocation Center in October, 1945. His 250 ink drawings, paintings, and three dimensional works documented and powerfully convey the harsh environment, as well as the inmates’ daily routines, deprivations, experiences, and pastimes. Collectively, they present a historical record through a sensitive and personal lens, offering a view not available in the official photography of the time. They also reveal Fujii’s remarkable resilience and perseverance in continuing his project until he left Minidoka in late 1945, and expand his story from victimization to agency.
Approximately 70 of Fujii's works will be displayed, including some created before his incarceration. Visitors can also scroll through a digital version of Fujii’s nearly 400-page diary to see the evolution of his experiences and his artmaking.
Seattle art historian and curator Barbara Johns based this exhibition on her new book, The Hope of Another Spring: Takuichi Fujii, Artist and Wartime Witness (University of Washington Press). Visitors to the History Museum on September 16 can join Johns for a Curator Talk and book signing at 2 PM (included with admission, free for WSHS members).
Fujii's family generously worked with Johns to share this previously unknown collection and the remarkable story of Takuichi's diary. Johns said, “I’m deeply pleased that the Washington State History Museum will present Takuichi Fujii’s work—in the region in which he first made his home in America, and in this 75th commemorative year after the mass exclusion of West Coast Japanese Americans.“
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the removal of people of Japanese ancestry to “prescribed military areas.” (See the full text of Executive Order 9066 at the National Archives website.) Fujii (50 years old at the time) and 110,000 others along the West Coast were forced to leave their homes. Many of these families lost everything ─ their homes, land, belongings, businesses, and livelihoods.