PALOS VERDES, CA.- Recollections of a childhood in a World War II Japanese American concentration camp, current visual impressions of the Manzanar camp site and documentation of the Japanese American experience on the Palos Verdes Peninsula during the first half of the 20th century are the themes of three exhibitions to run from January 30 - March 8, 2009, in the Palos Verdes Art Center, 5504. W. Crestridge Rd., Rancho Palos Verdes.
The galleries will be open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (except for Presidents' Day) and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. There is no admission charge. There also will be a free public reception honoring the artists from 5-8 p.m. Friday, January 30. During the opening, the artists will be available to discuss their work. Also, artist Peggy Hasegawa will help visitors create origami cranes, a symbol of good luck.
In the Art Center's Beckstrand Gallery, Camp Days 1942-1945 is a series of watercolors by Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz. A memoir of her days in the camp at Poston, Arizona, the paintings depict powerful memories etched in her mind since childhood.
Completed about six years ago, the paintings were cathartic, she said, helping her to overcome her demons by reliving both painful and joyful camp happenings.
The youngest of nine children, Chizuko Judy Sugita de Queiroz was nine years old and motherless when her family was sent to Poston after Executive Order 9066 removed all Japanese Americans from the West Coast, imprisoning anyone with as little as 1/16th Japanese blood.
"My life changed drastically in camp," she wrote. "In the new harsh reality of the camp I felt virtually alone and could no longer enjoy the luxury of being the baby....My sisters and brothers would not indulge my self-pity and instead insisted that it was time for me to grow up. Though I resisted, I eventually realized that they were right. I began to grow up and became more resilient."
Wanting to prove she was a good American, she tried "twice as hard" to do her best. Her self-confidence grew as a teacher recognized her artistic talent and encouraged her love of reading.
"I was asked to create paintings for the teachers' dining room, which made me feel more like my talented father, who carved and painted wooden birds, created sculpture from ironwood and made lapidary jewelry," she continued. "I made the decision then to be an artist."
She went on to get both her bachelor's and master's degrees in fine art and taught art for 30 years in Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District intermediate and high schools and area colleges. She retired in 1992 as chair of the fine arts department at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School and became a full-time artist. She has had several one-woman exhibitions in Southern California, and her work is in many collections.
"My work is concerned with perception, memory, inspiration and interpretation, and also what I'm feeling about the time, the place and the environment...painting is hard work and sheer joy."
Sugita de Queiroz will also discuss her experiences and sign a book of her watercolors during a program at 2 p.m. Sunday, February 22 at the Palos Verdes Art Center.
In the Art Center's Norris Gallery during the entire exhibition time period, there will be a display of paintings by various participants in Henry Fukuhara's Manzanar workshops. For 11 years, artist and teacher Fukuhara has taken other artists to Manzanar, a concentration camp in the California desert, to paint their unique impressions of the site and its history. Fukuhara was incarcerated in Manzanar as a young man.
Finally, in the Walker Gallery, photographs from the 40 Families Archive of the Palos Verdes Library District depict Japanese Americans on the Palos Verdes Peninsula from 1905 to 1945. These include both snapshots and formal portraits detailing their lives from the daily routines of farming to special events, such as graduations.
The Palos Verdes Art Center, a non-profit community organization, has served the Palos Verdes Peninsula and South Bay with visual arts exhibition, education and outreach programs since 1931. For more information about Camp Days and its related exhibitions or other Art Center programming, call 310-541-2479 or visit http://www.pvartcenter.org.