by Barbara McMichael, SoCoCulture
Art exhibit as apology? That’s a gross oversimplification of “Nihon/WA,” the White River Valley Museum’s new exhibit showcasing works by Puget Sound-based artists of Japanese heritage over the last 50 years. But Museum director Patricia Cosgrove and guest curator Kenneth Greg Watson acknowledge that one of the intentions of this extraordinary gathering of work is to honor a population that once thrived in the Auburn area, until it was driven away – literally – by the events of World War II.
Prior to December 7, 1941, the White River Valley had been home to thousands of Japanese immigrants and their children. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to sign Executive Order 9066, which forced their removal and incarceration. Once the war was over, only a few families returned to the place they once called Shirakawa.
“Nihon/WA” showcases an aesthetic that has overcome politics, bigotry and exclusion to become an enduring part of our region’s identity. Watson, former Auburn Arts Commission chair and an artist himself, worked contacts and wangled loans to bring together works from 18 different artists of Japanese heritage – Gerard Tsutakawa, Patti Warashina, Aki Sogabe, and Roger Shimomura, to name just a few. Diverse as these pieces are – expressions range from quirky cloisonné miniatures to kites to oversize sculpture – there are shared qualities in terms of gestural line, balance and, as Watson puts it, “letting the moment have its chance.”
The White River Valley Museum long has engaged in sharing the prewar Japanese history of the Auburn area. This exhibit, more contemporary in nature, is a consideration of how that heritage manifests now. It’s not only a celebration but also a homecoming invitation.
Says Watson, “I would love it if someone called this place Shirakawa again.”
For more details on the exhibit, read this coverage from the Tacoma News Tribune.