“Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani” (Oct 06, 2006 – Dec 15, 2006)

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October 06, 2006 – December 15, 2006

Curated by Roger Shimomura

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In November 1999, I learned of Jimmy – a homeless Japanese American who drew and sold his art in Washington Square in New York City. Apparently, he also did drawings of an internment camp he was in during WWII. I made it a point to meet Jimmy the next time I went to New York. A few weeks later I found him in Washington Square Park, wearing several layers of clothing, with all of his possessions and art supplies in a shopping cart. He had a dozen or so drawings spread out on the ground, with rocks on top of them to keep them from blowing away. Most were of cats and flowers, but some were of Camp Tule Lake. Despite the extreme differences in our life situations, we bonded immediately as two artists of Japanese ethnicity who were both incarcerated during the war, and chose to openly express this in our artwork. Jimmy’s work encompasses a variety of themes. Most poignant are his drawings that reflect his incarceration at Tule Lake, the Atomic bomb disaster at Hiroshima that claimed the lives of his mother’s family, and the World Trade Center disaster, perilously close to his street home. Some of the more popular themes that paid the bills during the street years are the compositions dealing with cats, tigers, flowers, forests, fruits, and vegetables. The third category is his collage work, in some ways the most interesting in that it reflects the widest variety of his encounters with his personal history, both past and recent. It has been a special experience knowing Jimmy. His life serves as a testimony to the basic art making process: you make one piece, and then you go on to make the next piece. Occasionally, maybe you’ll sell something. But this process can be accomplished without invitations, opening receptions, interviews, or dinner parties. Besides these lessons, I have appreciated how Jimmy, through his amazing life stories, his unquenchable thirst for making art, and his indomitable spirit, has brought together so many different types of people. — Roger Shimomura