Chiura Obata’s Dust Storm, Topaz

Selected Artworks from Chiura Obata: American Modern

A watercolor image of dwellings with a dust storm above.

Chiura Obata, Dust Storm, Topaz, 1943, watercolor on paper, 14 1/4 x 19 1/4 inches, Private Collection.

About this Artwork

Obata recruited other imprisoned artists to offer art classes at the incarceration camp. One of his fellow artists, George Matsusaburo Hibi, later described the vicious dust storms of the Utah desert:

When we arrived at Topaz, it was quite hot and dusty; and when the wind blew, dust covered the whole mile-square camp. We could hardly see a few yards away. But when the dust storm ended, we could only see around us sage brushes in the vast broad plains as far as to the foot of mountains which rise around this area. . . . Not a single grass was growing, nor of course a flower. The world was covered only with gray color, and we felt that we were dumped en masse into a desert where only scorpions and coyotes were living.