Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Morning in DC

(This actually should go before the other post, I suppose.)

I'm rusty on the Metro stuff, and that, combined with arriving last night at 2:30 in the morning, made for a slow start.  First stop was the Renwick, where they had an exhibit titled, "The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-1946." Click on that link to go to the slide show.  This exhibit showed a lot of the art, as well as the functional pieces, made by the Japanese interned during World War II.  It was very interesting, and showed a lot about the resilience of people put in difficult living conditions when we "imprisoned" Japanese-Americans in internment camps.  I was impressed with their desire to beautify their surroundings, as well as cope with what had to be challenging conditions--deprived of most of their own possessions, and for a time, any religious artifacts.

The show featured some furniture, made from packing crates.  The table has bits of palm frond as decoration, which the curators believe is from the time they were sent to Santa Anita raceway before being sent on to a camp.

These small dolls, in various poses, were made of bits of cloth, wire leftover from camp projects, and the faces are painted very delicately.

One of the camps was built on a dry lake bed, and the internees dug down a few inches to harvest the shells--most as tiny as sees, or a baby's fingernail.  They would bleach them and paint them in order to create these corsages.  Some backings were bottle caps.  They'd get their designs from old National Geographic Magazines that were sent to the camps.

The shirt above is made from a flour sack.  The banner designates a baseball team, complete with the positions the players took.  Many camps formed baseball teams as another way to pass the time.

In our English class, we are reading the novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, a story about two young Americans whose lives were affected by this experience.  The museum shop had this for sale.  They were also running a video, which I sat and watched, about life in the camps and quotes from authorities which had a distinctively anti-Japanese flavor.  Since I live in California, many of these quotes are reminiscent of things I hear about the Hispanic immigrants--and I hear echoes of these things when the Muslims are talked about in regards to the "mosque" in New York.  This visit made me think about how we Americans seem not to learn from our own history and experience.

I remember in my high school there was a teacher who would come to our classes and talk about his time in the camps.  He taught me driver's ed, and I didn't understand about what America had done to these citizens and immigrants.  Now, I find it all terribly sad, and am glad some of their stories are around to be told through these artifacts, like the ones I saw in the Renwick.

Renwick Front Door, from the inside

So it was certainly interesting to walk down to the World War II Memorial after that exhibit.  I love this place--it's my favorite monument on the Mall.  But the reality of some of the ugly truths of World War II contrasted with the quotes engraved on the walls.  I've watched Ken Burns' World War II series, and atrocities were committed everywhere.  But all the same. . . to ship out our own citizens seems to be rather extreme.  I know, hindsight is 20/20.  But just as my children's generation will judge our actions of all our "wars," bankrupting their schools with austere measures, and looking at the legacy we leave them with an unwavering eye, I too, look backwards and wonder about all this.

World War II Monument, Atlantic Entrance

It's a beautiful day in Washington, DC--not too hot, but nice and sunny.  I stroll up past the Washington Monument to go to the Museums, and enjoy the rest of the day inside.

1 comment:

Judy said...

Pretty amazing art, even in the best of times. That is a fascinating part of American history. Thanks for sharing.