Exhibition of artwork by Jimmy Mirikitani

  • en

Jun 200710 Aug 200712

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center
Portland, Oregon
United States

The Art of Jimmy Mirikitani
June 10 - August 12, 2007

This summer ONLC is hosting a collection of paintings and drawings by Jimmy Mirkitani that explore his life and work, the lasting impacts of war and discrimination, and the healing power of creativity.

"Make art not war" is Jimmy Mirikitani’s motto. Jimmy is an 87-year-old artist who was born in Sacramento, California in 1920 and raised and educated in Hiroshima, Japan. He returned to the United States in 1938 to pursue a career in art, and was living in Seattle with his sister Kazuko when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Executive Order 9066 forced Jimmy and his sister to leave their home and move to separate internment camps hundreds of miles apart. Jimmy was sent to Tule Lake War Relocation Camp, located about 150 miles south of the Oregon-California border. He renounced his U.S. citizenship in protest there. After the war ended, Jimmy and hundreds of others continued to be held without charge, first in Tule Lake, then in a Department of Justice INS camp in Crystal City, Texas. He was transferred to “relaxed internment,” working the 12 hour night shift, 6 days a week, sorting vegetables on an assembly line at Seabrook Farms in New Jersey, and was released from there in August of 1947. A single lawyer, Wayne Collins, worked for decades to help Jimmy and 5,000 other renunciants reclaim the citizenship they had given up under duress.

Jimmy arrived in New York City in the early 1950s to attempt to resume his art career. When an art professor found him sleeping in the Columbia University library, he was referred to the New York Buddhist Church where he was provided with room, board, and training as a cook. For years, he traveled the East Coast working seasonal jobs.

Jimmy’s U.S. citizenship was finally restored in 1959, but by then he had moved so often that the government’s letter never reached him. Eventually, Jimmy became a live-in cook on Park Avenue. But when his employer died in the late 1980’s, Jimmy found himself without home or job. Within a year he was homeless and living in Washington Square Park in New York City, selling his artwork to survive. He was homeless for two decades.

In 2001, he met Linda Hattendorf, who later produced a documentary film, The Cats of Mirikitani, about Jimmy’s life and work. She helped him apply for Social Security, SSI, and housing benefits, and in 2002 he moved into an assisted-living retirement center. Later that same year, he was reunited with his sister Kazuko for the first time in 60 years.

Portland showing made possible by The Wing Luke Asian Museum. Curated by Roger Shimomura, American artist and former internee. Exhibit graphic design by Wilmer Galindo and Michelle Kumata. Thanks also to Linda Hattendorf, director of the documentary film The Cats of Mirikitani.

Exhibit hours:
Tuesday - Saturday 11 am to 3 pm, Sundays noon to 3 pm.
Admission is $3 (free for Friends of the Legacy Center).

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center
121 NW 2nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97209



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Oregon_Nikkei . Last modified Jul 09, 2010 12:11 p.m.

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