Meditation, on History   Oil on paper, with cotton twine and found wood, 2016   When my Grandmother was twelve years old, she and her family were removed from their homes and sent into internment during the Second World War. I grew up hearing her story, and I took it for granted that we had learned from that injustice.    I feel very lucky to have inherited the memory of her experience. I have grown up knowing that anger cannot overcome violence, that aggression cannot undo fear. In the face of suffering, how else can I respond except to be more understanding, more compassionate, more kind?

Meditation, on History

Oil on paper, with cotton twine and found wood, 2016

When my Grandmother was twelve years old, she and her family were removed from their homes and sent into internment during the Second World War. I grew up hearing her story, and I took it for granted that we had learned from that injustice.

I feel very lucky to have inherited the memory of her experience. I have grown up knowing that anger cannot overcome violence, that aggression cannot undo fear. In the face of suffering, how else can I respond except to be more understanding, more compassionate, more kind?

Meditation, for Janet Sakamoto       Oil on paper, with cotton twine and found wood, 2016    In the last years of her life, my grandmother often asked if I would help her write her life story. I felt guilty for avoiding her requests, but I also resented her reluctance to talk about the past: when we found her box of old photographs, she didn’t even want to see them—she didn’t really want to remember.     Though I have no difficulty recognizing her face in these images, when I see her smile I imagine a woman lighter and more carefree than the one I have known. I wish I could have known her then. But I know that this is a lie: the photograph makes us long for a memory which has never really been. (Nostalgia.)    The photographic image is purely circumstantial—a shadow suspended—but this is precisely why they are so pleasing (and simple, in fact) to paint: they show a memory already flattened into color and shape. And their truth is made no less clear (to me, at least) by their lack of detail.    I paint these photographs because I want to share them, but also because I want to be close to them: I am drawn to the image of the woman I wish I’d known. But the photograph can never really be held—the image it shows is always at a distance—and looking cannot offer wholeness. Painting doesn’t offer wholeness either, but a least there is the completion of the work itself.     I worry, again, that I am simply being selfish—that I am only using her story in order to tell my own, masking the need to express myself with an excuse of tenderness. But I know this isn’t true, at least not wholly so: how else can I tell her story except through my own words?    I wish that this could be the apology I never gave her—for failing to listen as well as I could have. But I know that words cannot undo the past. The best I can do is to keep asking myself: Is what I am doing necessary? Is it compassionate? Is it helpful?

Meditation, for Janet Sakamoto

 

Oil on paper, with cotton twine and found wood, 2016

In the last years of her life, my grandmother often asked if I would help her write her life story. I felt guilty for avoiding her requests, but I also resented her reluctance to talk about the past: when we found her box of old photographs, she didn’t even want to see them—she didn’t really want to remember. 

Though I have no difficulty recognizing her face in these images, when I see her smile I imagine a woman lighter and more carefree than the one I have known. I wish I could have known her then. But I know that this is a lie: the photograph makes us long for a memory which has never really been. (Nostalgia.)

The photographic image is purely circumstantial—a shadow suspended—but this is precisely why they are so pleasing (and simple, in fact) to paint: they show a memory already flattened into color and shape. And their truth is made no less clear (to me, at least) by their lack of detail.

I paint these photographs because I want to share them, but also because I want to be close to them: I am drawn to the image of the woman I wish I’d known. But the photograph can never really be held—the image it shows is always at a distance—and looking cannot offer wholeness. Painting doesn’t offer wholeness either, but a least there is the completion of the work itself. 

I worry, again, that I am simply being selfish—that I am only using her story in order to tell my own, masking the need to express myself with an excuse of tenderness. But I know this isn’t true, at least not wholly so: how else can I tell her story except through my own words?

I wish that this could be the apology I never gave her—for failing to listen as well as I could have. But I know that words cannot undo the past. The best I can do is to keep asking myself: Is what I am doing necessary? Is it compassionate? Is it helpful?