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Heart Mountain Happi (back)​

This happi (traditional Japanese jacket) refers to a hollow shell that normally holds life. It suggests haunting memories, loss and emptiness. Instead of fabric, this happi is made of small glassine envelopes usually used for postage stamps, (which is a nod to my father who was a stamp collector). On the back is a drawing of Heart Mountain and the actual text of my grandfather Kiroku Bepp’s Last Will written while he was a prisoner at Heart Mountain camp.

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Heart Mountain Happi (front)

On the front, each envelope contains text from Kiroku’s personal diaries from the 1940s that I photocopied onto transparencies and inserted into the glassine envelopes – various ruminations on the world situation. Reading these notes today are like a window into what was on his mind at the time.

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Sumi Bepp

This piece is dedicated to my paternal grandmother. She was an Issei floral artist, kimono designer/seamstress, and one of my artistic inspirations. She taught me how to sew but also how to see.

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Sumi Bepp (detail #1)

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Sumi Bepp (detail #2)

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Sumi Bepp (detail #3)

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Kiroku Bepp

This upcycled wood assemblage holds the story of my grandfather Kiroku’s life when he was incarcerated during WWII – the world is turned upside down and there is no way to decipher the way life has become so fragmented in this prison called Heart Mountain.

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Game of Go

One of my grandfather Kiroku’s pastimes was playing the Japanese board game called “Go”, a game of intense strategy, attacks and counter attacks, like those used in war. I use this metaphor of a board game to refer to how the US government used various strategies to round up the Japanese and put them away, like pawns in a game.

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Game of Go (detail #1)

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Game of Go (detail #2)

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Game of Go (detail #3)

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Writing on the Wall

Using distressed materials, I conjure up a sense of desolation; images of barracks from WWII camps, remains of an Asian-style shoji screen. And as you get closer you can see continuous lines of typewritten text – actual racist slurs straight from American history books from the early 1900s. 

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Writings on the Wall (detail #1)

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Writings on the Wall (detail #2)

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Writings on the Wall (detail #3)

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I cut out the words “I Am An American” into a WWII civilian exclusion poster that ordered the removal of persons of Japanese ancestry. The poster stands in my grandmother’s vase that she used for creating her flower arrangements. These pleading words cut into the poster are in ironic contrast to the vase which is symbolic of harmony and grace in the art of flower arranging.

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Scarred (detail)

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Heart Mountain Camp (anonymous writer)

This is a “poem” that I found on a piece of paper that my parents brought back from Heart Mountain camp. It was such a moving poem that I carved it into a piece of upcycled wood. The Japanese character on top means “person or individual” (nin) and the bottom means “full house” or oiri (big admission).

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Angel Island Prison

From 1910 to 1940 Angel Island here in the San Francisco Bay was an active immigration prison. This series is dedicated to immigrants from Asia who were trying to enter the US but were imprisoned sometimes indefinitely. Many of the prisoners carved heart wrenching poems into the prison cell walls.

Point of Entry

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Island of Immortals

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Point of No Return

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