The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946
March 5, 2010 – January 30, 2011
The Art of Gaman showcases arts and crafts made by Japanese Americans in U.S. internment camps during World War II. Soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, all ethnic Japanese on the West Coast—more than two-thirds of whom were American citizens by birth—were ordered to leave their homes and move to ten inland internment camps for the duration of the war. While in these bleak camps, the internees used scraps and found materials to make furniture and other objects to beautify their surroundings. Arts and crafts became essential for simple creature comforts and emotional survival. These objects—tools, teapots, furniture, toys and games, musical instruments, pendants and pins, purses and ornamental displays—are physical manifestations of the art of gaman, a Japanese word that means to bear the seemingly unbearable with dignity and patience.
The exhibition features more than 120 objects, most of which are on loan from former internees or their families. The display at the Renwick Gallery includes several objects that have not been seen publicly, including works by Ruth Asawa, Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, Isamu Noguchi, Henry Sugimoto, and master woodworkers Gentaro and Shinzaburo Nishiura. It presents historical context through archival photographs, artifacts, and documentary films. The exhibition is organized by San Francisco-based author and guest curator Delphine Hirasuna, and is based on her 2005 book The Art of Gaman, published by Ten Speed Press.
The exhibition is presented under the honorary patronage of The Honorable Norman Y. Mineta. Mr. Mineta, a former Congressman, Secretary of Transportation, and Regent of the Smithsonian, was interned as a child at Heart Mountain in Wyoming.
Free Public Programs
Friday, March 5 at noon; lecture by Delphine Hirasuna
Wednesday, March 10 at noon; gallery talk with Robyn Kennedy
Wednesday, March 31 at noon; lecture by Karen Matsuoka
Sunday, April 11at 2 p.m.; artist talk with Mira Nakashima and Wendy Maruyama
Saturday, May 1 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Family Day
Thursday, June 10 at 5:30 p.m.; From Camps to Congress with Congressman Mike Honda and Dr. Franklin Odo
Thursday, June 24 at noon; gallery talk with Delphine Hirasuna
Saturday, July 17 at 2 p.m.; Snow Falling on Cedars (1999), directed by Scott Hicks
Saturday, August 7 at 2 p.m.; talk and book signing with Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Sunday, August 29 at 2 p.m.; The Cats of Mirikitani (2006), directed by Linda Hattendorf
Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 12 p.m.; lecture, Victory Gardens
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 12 p.m.; gallery talk,The Art of Gaman
Saturday, November 6, 2010 from 1 to 4 p.m.; cultural festival, Bunkasai
Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 2 p.m.; documentary shorts: Out of Infamy (2010), directed by Nancy Kapitanoff, and Days of Waiting (1988), directed by Steven Okazaki
Read about the exhibition on the Museum's blog Eye Level
May, 20, 2010, The Art of Gaman: The Bird Artist
May 7, 2010, Gaman and the Story of the Vest with a Thousand Knots
March 5, 2010, Gaman and the Story of the Bird Pins
February 19, 2010, Gaman: FDR and the Japanese American Internment Camps
In the News
The Mainichi Daily News, January 23, 2011, "Art of internment camps stirs memories among Japanese-Americans" by Sandie Garcia (Kyodo News)
American Craft, December 2010/January 2011, interview with Delphine Hirasuna by Julie K. Hanus "Beauty in a Bleak World"
NHK, November 11, 2010, Close Up Gendai feature "Gaman—Dignity of Nikkei Americans"
C-SPAN3, November 6, 2010, American History TV, "Japanese American Internment Camp Art"
National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works blog, June 29, 2010 "Bearing the Unbearable: The Art of Gaman" by Victoria Hutter
Voice of America, May 18, 2010, "Art by Japanese-American Detainees During World War Two Shows Their Struggle and Humanity" by Susan Logue Koster
National Public Radio, Morning Edition, May 12, 2010, "The Creative Art of Coping In Japanese Internment" by Susan Stamberg
BBC, The Strand, April 7, 2010, features "The Art of Gaman" by Jane O'Brien
WAMU 88.5 FM, April 4, 2010 "Renwick Gallery Displays Crafts Made By Japanese In Internment Camps" by Asma Khalid
The Washington Post, March 28, 2010, "'The Art of Gaman': Life behind walls we were too scared to live without" by Philip Kennicott
Smithsonian magazine, March 12, 2010, Around the Mall, "Gaman at the Renwick: The Art and Craft of Dignity"
The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946 is presented at the Renwick Gallery, with the cooperation of the Japanese American Citizens League, San Francisco Chapter. The James Renwick Alliance, Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, Nion McEvoy, and Cary Frieze provided support for the exhibition.