For the past several years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the late Henry Fukuhara’s (4/25/19-1/31/10) Manzanar Outdoor Watercolor Workshops. One of the on-site locations is, of corse, the site of the Manzanar Relocation Center, located in California, on the eastern side of the Sierra Mountain range, between the cities of Lone Pine, to the South, and Independence, to the North.
As the reader may know, Manzanar was created on the basis of Executive Order 9066. It was not one of America’s brightest days. Today, Manzanar is part of our National Park System and stands as a reminder of how easily our rights as American citizens can be threatened…and publicly accepted, with little question.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066
Executive Order 9066, occurred in 1942. This was as a result of World War II, and during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. The order authorized the internment of Americans of Japanese, Italian, and German ancestry.
At 31 years of age, Henry Fukuhara and his family were among American citizens who were interned at Manzanar, one of many similar camps throughout the United States.
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I’m sure the reader can recall the phrase, History tends to repeat itself. Or, as philosopher Santayana noted, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
THE PAINTING PROCESS
So, while at Henry’s Fukuhara’s18th Workshop, May 14-18, 2015, I painted three, half sheet watercolors, of which, Executive Order 9066 is, to me the most meaningful of the three.
The creation of the painting Executive Order 9066, doesn’t come easy. Truthfully, it is a struggle. I do eleven preliminary sketches/value plans before setting brush to paper. Prior to that the idea mentally incubates for the most part of two days and nights. Once the basic theme is determined, the problem becomes one of how to present the idea in an abstract manner.
The original concept is to place the phrase, Don’t Tread On Me, on one of the flag’s white stripes. Eventually, I realize this preconceived idea is distracting, taking precedence over compositional considerations, such as the small, white “9066” shape.
So, once the many red and white stripes are changed into one, big, bold earth colored rock-like shape I am on my way. I want the small, white, rectangular area simple and stark in contrast to the bigger, darker rock shape. I finally realize that by placing that same shape against several red and white stripes causes unwanted visual conflict.
I purposely elect not to add the term Executive Order, anywhere on the painting. I want “9066” to stand alone, to contrast against the rest of the painting. For those who know, “9066,” does it. For those who do not know, it would be in their best interest to do some research on the subject.
Perhaps the strength of this painting is that it leaves room for the viewer’s personal interpretation and reflection. What does Executive Order 9066 have in common with the events of 1776? Furthermore, do those events have any relevance in the year 2015 and beyond? I think so.
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