ROGER SHIMOMURA (b. 1939)
photo: Robert Hickerson

Roger Shimomura, a third-generation Japanese American, creates paintings and performance pieces blending an ironic mixture of Japanese imagery and American popular culture. A native of Seattle, he and his family were removed to an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

Over the past decade, much of Shimomura's work has been devoted to exploring the emotional and psychological hardships of the internment experience, based on the diaries of his grandmother. More recently, however, he has taken a more lighthearted approach to the serious themes of xenophobia, racism, and cross-cultural interface.

In the paintings here, from Shimomura's "Great American Neighbors" series, brick walls and shoji screens represent the arbitrary barriers that often separate races and cultures in this country. He also draws our attention to the sometimes hilarious ways in which different cultures overlap. Split-level houses, barbecue grills, picket fences, and Superman share the same world as kimonoed figures, rice cookers, and Japanese platform sandals. Shimomura's irony and humor help to move the viewer beyond the visual and psychological barriers into a more promising, if no less confusing, space where cultures cross and we are all the richer for it.