An exhibition of “The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946” opens today at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington D.C. It is curated by @Issue’s very own editor, Delphine Hirasuna, and based on her book of the same name, which was designed by @Issue’s very own design director, Kit Hinrichs.
The exhibition (and book) features art and objects made by some of the 120,000 ethnic Japanese who lived on the U.S. West Coast and were forced into barbed wire enclosed/heavily guarded internment camps for the duration of World War II. Allowed to take only what they could carry, they were sent to live in remote uninhabited locations in the deserts and swamps.
While this represents a sad and troubling episode in American history, the objects made by the internees truly represent a triumph of the human spirit. Assigned to live in hastily constructed barracks, furnished only with a metal cot and pot-bellied stove, they set about trying to create a home for themselves and their families. Forbidden to take any metal objects into the camp, they made their own tools and scavenged for wood to construct chairs and tables and a way to store their clothes. Then they surveyed the surrounding landscape to find other things they could use. What they created out of scrap and found materials is deserving of consideration in this design blog. It shows problem-solving design and innovation, and a high aesthetic sensibility.
FYI, for those of you who live around Washington, D.C., Delphine is speaking at the Renwick Gallery at 12 noon, Friday (March 5). Her talk will be followed by a booksigning by Delphine and Kit. Come see us and mention that you read @Issue!!!