On November 19, a public dedication ceremony was held for Katie Yamasaki’s Moon Beholders, a new mural commissioned by JANM for the north wall of our National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. Greg Kimura, JANM President and CEO, led the ceremony and introduced a few VIP guests who shared words of thanks and congratulations.
Tanner Blackman, Planning Director for Los Angeles City Councilmember Jose Huizar, expressed his excitement over the new mural. Murals in Los Angeles have only been legal since August 2013 after an “unfortunate” 11-year ban. The ban ended with the adoption of the Mural Ordinance, which Blackman helped prepare and lobbied for. The ordinance created new definitions of public art for the City of Los Angeles, allowing works such as Moon Beholders to be created.
Felicia Filer, Director of Public Art at the Department of Cultural Affairs, shared her excitement over the placement of this work on the exterior of a building, remarking that “so many more people pass the outside of a building than the inside of a building.” Filer called the mural a “gift to the public” and also expressed delight that it is “an image of a female, painted by a female.” She congratulated the artist and shared her hope that that there would be a rise in female muralists, as Yamasaki adds to the “dialogue of street art and the canon of muralism.”
Moon Beholders is the first Los Angeles mural for Yamasaki, a half-Japanese artist who grew up in Michigan and has executed public art projects in diverse communities all over the world. She spoke enthusiastically about the special honor of communicating Japanese American stories and values in a Japanese American community like Little Tokyo. In developing the mural’s imagery, Yamasaki conferred with local constituents and incorporated some of their ideas. She called Moon Beholders a “dream project” because the themes in the artwork closely parallel the museum’s mission and values—namely, “justice, equality, and civil liberties.”
The next time you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to stop by and enjoy Moon Beholders, which contains a wealth of symbolic imagery. In addition to the text of the 17th-century Basho haiku that inspired the title, the mural includes lanterns inspired by Noguchi’s experiences in a World War II American concentration camp and multiple furoshiki (traditional cloth) with patterns that reference episodes of Japanese American history, such as the early immigration period and the WWII incarceration.