Could you hand me the paintbrush, please?

So it’s been a while since my last post, but perhaps such delay is due to the busy schedule and tasks that the Museum has wrapped itself around in preparation for the new exhibition of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo.  The staff here at the Museum might have become numb and prone to the rushed and hectic atmosphere of getting ready for a new exhibition, but I found it quite amusing (and quite the workout as well).

I first began assisting the staff by matting and framing – and eventually drilling – the artist’s pieces that were to be hung on the walls.  Along with my fellow intern, Alexa, we took turns carefully measuring and cutting the matboards, and cleaning the plexi glass after they were ripped of their sticky wrappings (which required quite some strength, we were worried our arms would be sore the next day).  Every piece required a frame, and once an artwork was placed into one, we peered through the glass to make sure no debris were stuck between the piece and glass – and if there were any, we took a brush and shooed the unwanted away.  The drilling was perhaps the most “masculine” part of the experience, I felt like I was fighting  gender binaries: there I was wearing a white dress and heels, and what’s in my hand? That’s right, a macho screwdriver.

Every now and then, you could hear one – or both – of us sighing out of frustration from a dull blade or a miscalculation that was off by so much that I came to doubt myself when I used to say, “Oh yea, I’m pretty good at math.” Those days when I took calculus seemed like a dream.  One odd part of the whole thing was that neither Alexa nor I had access to Collections, and many times we found ourselves looking for someone to open the doors.  At one point, I felt extremely silly:  I spent nearly a half hour trying to look for Clement (because we all know that he’s everywhere and nowhere; I would see him throughout the building but whenever I actually am looking for him, he’s nowhere to be found).  Eventually I had to text Clement to see where he was, and soon enough I hear my name being announced.

But time flies when you’re working, which is a good thing (well, at least most of the time).

Of course, my favorite part was painting.  After much anticipation, Mae and I – along with other members of the staff – got to tracing and painting the walls with images of Usagi Yojimbo.  (I was told maybe a week earlier that I were to be painting, and every day I would come in and bother my supervisor, “Are they ready? Are we painting today?!”) Though I myself is an art major, I hadn’t painted in months, and I was very excited to paint such a large-scale image.  And when I did start painting, ahh the memories of being an art student flooded back in.  The trickiest part of the task was to reach the top areas with a ladder – and despite the fact that I used to do ballet and gymnastics, my sense of balance is not to be trusted.  Making sure the paint isn’t dripping onto the rest of the image is another challenge – a challenge that I must admit I could not at times accept.

Once the exhibition was set up, Saturday came upon us, and soon enough I found myself helping out children take pictures and make frames for Target Family Day.  As tiring as the day was, I had an immense amount of fun watching kids – and adults – grow their sense of creativity through wooden frames and bright-colored stickers.  (Though I’m not sure why there were stickers in the images of dimes and pennies… how random. But hey, you can’t have too much money, right?)  And the best part of it all? I got to take a picture and make a frame myself. which is staring back at me as of this moment while I type away this post 🙂

Yuiko

Jerome Lu's Hyperactive Shaolin Rabbit

I say Labbit, you say Rabbit

I have received a couple of inquiries as to the origin of the title for the Year of the Labbit show, so I thought perhaps an explanation was in order. I was not trying to confuse, confound, or humiliate anyone for not being able to pronounce Ls and Rs (like my mother planned to when she wanted to name me Laura so neither my Chinese nor Japanese grandparents would be able to say my name correctly –Lola, Rora,..)

Jerome Lu's Hyperactive Shaolin Rabbit
Angry Asian labbit! (Jerome Lu's Hyperactive Shaolin Rabbit)

 

The blank toy that was used for the show was an already existing product created by Kid Robot and the artist Frank Kozik. I wondered about the name since the toy had absolutely no reflection of any Asian influences. I assumed it was a combination of the Latin based word for “rabbit” which in French at least is “lapin” and  “rabbit”, and left it at that. There were never any indications that this was aimed at an Asian audience, it never came with Asian themed accessories, and wasn’t questioned until I decided to use it for the blank canvas for this show, at this Museum, and called the show the Year of the Labbit.

I contacted the artist to ask him how the Labbit got its name. Frank told me that his first version of this toy was a mean-looking rabbit with a cigarette in its mouth and a scar on its forehead. I had seen this in his artwork as a “Smorkin’ Labbit”, and indeed several toy versions were made with variations of rabbits and other inanimate objects (like watermelons, hamburgers, etc. all smoking cigarettes.) Frank said that he sent his Smokin’ Rabbit design to Asia for final production. When he received his first shipment of packaged product, someone in Asia had changed everything to Smorkin’ Labbit! Rather than scrap the whole project and return everything for a re-do, he decided to let serendipity to play into his product and kept the name as is.

The version of Kozik’s toy we are using is called the Happy Labbit and is a little more family friendly and cute. But basically I chose it because its shape offered the most surface area for artists to paint on.

Labbit Custom Show UPDATE

Here’s an update on our Year of the Labbit Custom Show opening on Thursday!

Whew, working to open two shows a week apart is insane! It always gets done, often without all the behind-the-scenes drama showing up in the final product (see my last post re: drama.)  However some important items you should know: 1.) the Labbit Show opens at 6:30 PM on Thursday, July 14. We won’t unveil until then. 2.) Admission to the exhibition is FREE that evening. 3.) Some of the Labbits will be auctioned off on eBay through out the run of the show. These include Labbits by Mike Shinoda, Kip Fulbeck, higashi glaser and Stan Sakai. The auctions will be posted on the Year of the Labbit page on our web site. Each auction will last a week so you will have plenty of time to bid.

Online sales for the other pieces will be up (gulp!) hopefully by the opening night. I can’t tell you exactly when, but keep checking our site. We won’t start selling until the show opens however.

The Digital Docent

Shishima Family 1944

 

Look at our volunteer Bill as a young boy!  Top right.  Don’t you want to know where he is, what he’s thinking, how he got his hair so perfectly coiffed?

Ok but seriously.  Our volunteers have a rich narrative of history to share with younger generations.  History has been written from the top down, but the foundation is the strength of the story and ordinary peoples’ voices need to be heard.  A new history told from the bottom up needs to be cultivated bringing dimension and diversity to our understanding.  This year we are introducing a new Speakers Bureau through online interfacing.  The Digital Speaker’s Bureau will facilitate this new history and discourse between generations.  Enabling students to speak to older adults and hear their stories is a much more moving experience than one that can be gained from a textbook.  The Speaker’s Bureau also allows us to reach an audience that for distance or financial reasons is unable to visit the National Museum.

Students can have a richer education that includes more of the diversity that makes America.  The personal connections that can be made through the Digital Speaker’s Bureau are difficult to replicate in a textbook or classroom.  The shared experiences of the volunteers will lend itself to an informed society and one more aware of the complex networks of narratives that make our history.

Plus, look at how cute Bill looks.

We trialed an oral history interview over Skype last spring between Bill and a high school in Texas.  It went a little something like this.

Digital Speaker Session

If you’re interested in setting up a group for Digital Speaker session, please email groupvisits@janm.org!

 

Discover Nikkei Survey

Hello beautiful people!

My name is Maya Kochiyama and I am the new Discover Nikkei intern this summer at the Japanese American National Museum through the Nikkei Community Internship program.  I am entering my junior year at UC Berkeley as an Integrative Biology major.

As part of the Discover Nikkei staff, I would cordially like to invite you to take our Discover Nikkei Survey!

We are conducting this survey in hopes of learning more about the diverse array of Nikkei communities around the world.  The results from this survey will be analyzed and presented at the XVI COPANI (Conventions of the Association of Pan American Nikkei) Discover Nikkei Conference in Cancun, Mexico in September.

It’s a quick and easy 10-minute survey that may even get you thinking about your own cultural identity.

Here are the links to check it out!

ENGLISH:  http://5dn.org/copanisurvey-en
日本語:   http://5dn.org/copanisurvey-ja
ESPAÑOL:    http://5dn.org/copanisurvey-es
PORTUGUÊS:   http://5dn.org/copanisurvey-pt

If you have any questions, you can email editor@discovernikkei.org or contact me at mkochiyama@earthlink.net.

The last day to submit the survey is July 25th!

Thanks so much!  We greatly appreciate your support! 🙂

The Best Lunch Dates Around

As my fellow interns have mentioned, the JANM is not the place for a diet. The Japanese Village Plaza is less than a stone’s throw away, the area is full of froyo and sweets shops, and the staff room is filled daily with a plentiful bounty of docent-brought treats. In conjunction with my new existence as a sedentary, headphone wearing, video editing machine, I can feel the pounds piling on.  Flashbacks of my “Freshman Fifteen” come rushing back as I realize I am gaining what I’ve decided to call my “Getty Intern Gut.”

For ten weeks, I’ll forgo the summer California girl look of toned body and flawless tan, in exchange for a more pleasantly plump, florescent light-fostered glow.  Of course, the food and company I’ve had is well worth it.

I’ve found that times at the JANM are celebrated with great food.  Today marks the last day for another intern, Mia.  To commemorate the occasion, the whole office went to lunch.  And where else would the staff and interns of one of the largest Japanese American museums go but Chinatown.  (**Side note: Japanese people always seem to come together for Chinese food.  Be it a wedding, funeral, or family reunion, pan fried noodles always seem to beat out sticky rice for celebratory food.  It’s something I’ve never understood…)

Mia’s celebratory lunch was at a wonderful little dim sum restaurant.  We all had our fill of noodles stuffed with shrimp and beef, fried squid, rice, and Chinese vegetables.  The feast was delicious, and the company at the table couldn’t be beat.  One of the best things about these fantastic lunch dates is the friendships I can feel forming with the people I work with.  Sure, sometimes conversation turns to business: the Discover Nikkei files that still need to be looked over, or some new exhibition space.  But more often, deeper connections are made.

I’ve learned that Vicky has a thing for food photography.  Before a grain of rice goes into her mouth, at least one picture must be taken.  The result is a mouth watering online food diary whose size is comparable to that of the Museum archives.  I’ve learned that Yoko can speak three languages.  Geoff has a huge knowledge of science fiction literature.  I’ve learned that John, long-time Obon attendee, is going to dance at his first Obon this summer (the Media Arts department is still trying to get footage of him practicing—more on that to come, hopefully).

This internship has proved edifying in more ways than I can count.  I’m learning to shoot tape and edit video, sure, but I’m also learning about the people I work with, and the culture I come from.  I’m learning to love and accept it all–even my Getty Gut.  The trick, I’ve found, is not to run to the treadmill or the stair master.  Instead, all I can do is sit back, smile, and try to get some work done before the food coma sets in.

A “konnichiwa” to you!

It seems like I’ve lost the race to reach this blog, but nevertheless I am delighted to introduce myself to you!

My name is Yuiko Sugino, a recent graduate from UC San Diego, and I am this year’s Production intern here at the Japanese American National Museum. You are probably aware by now from the previous posts that there are three interns total at this museum, and I am very excited to meet staff members and get to know one another through the next few weeks.  It is unbelievable that two weeks have already gone by, yet every day seems to be different.  To be honest, I was not exactly sure what to expect when I applied for this position as a production artist.  And when I arrived and spent my first few days at the museum, I’ve noticed one thing: the reaction I received when I explained who my supervisor was.

“I’ll be working under Clement as a production intern.”

Responses: “Uh-oh.” “Seems like you’ve pulled the short straw.” “Good luck!” and the big-eyed, raised-brow facial expression with the stretched “Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

So it is fair to say that I have been warned.  But I must say I am very excited and fortunate to have such active and humorous supervisors (the other being Mae, an equally kind yet quirky person with whom I love to converse) (I hope they are not offended by the adjectives I’ve chosen…).  I must thank them in advance for everything they’ve offered me 🙂 Let me say that a Production internship entails so many interesting things!  From using vinyl cutters to create the visual texts that are to be put up on the walls of an exhibition, to designing and applying small display panels by utilizing a laminating device (which I might add was quite frustrating at first, because the tape kept on creasing and causing bubbles to appear – so I had to redo a handful of them), so much has been drilled into my brain and hands.  I have attended several meetings and a screening, and I’ve realized that there is so much to learn in terms of exhibition development, the history of this country as well as the nicks and knacks of networking.  Not to mention the amount of food that exists in this building!  I’ve been told that this place is not the place to be if you are on a diet… seems like my luck has run out.  Through incredibly generous offers, losing weight is not going to happen for me within the next two months.

I am extremely anxious to learn and acquire the new skills and knowledge within the next couple of months, and I look forward to sharing that experience along with my fellow interns with you! And now, it seems like my 15-minute break has come to an end, so I will bid you a good day!  Happy Wednesday, everyone!

A Summer for the Books

For many years my summers have consisted of friends, sunshine, and sleeping in, which some would like to call, lazing around and being the opposite of productive. However, this summer, I have been back in my home-state of California for about three weeks now and have spent two of those weeks at work, behind-the-scenes of the Japanese American National Museum as this summer’s curatorial intern, one of the three Getty interns this summer.

I am Alexa Kim, a soon-to-be second year at Kalamazoo College, in the little known city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Last year, I, a lifelong California girl, decided that I would be spending the next four years of my life, across the country, in the wild wild Midwest, a place where the winters are cold and the authentic Mexican food is scarce, a place I’ve learned to call home. I’m set on the path of becoming a full-blown art nerd, a.k.a. an art history major, since I discovered years ago that I would not make my living as an artist since the “art” I created, or attempted to create, resulted in works faintly resembling Picasso, when I had been aiming for more of a Caravaggio-esque look. If you don’t know who on earth I’m referring to, like I said, art nerd in training.

Bright and early every morning I hop on the train to commute to Little Tokyo, where I am greeted with the hustle and bustle of everyone grabbing their pre-work coffee fix at Starbucks, me included, and then proceed to head to my desk at the National Museum. I have been met with various projects here, but the majority of my time here will be spent in the Collections department. A room where one must always remember to bring a sweater because even though it may be a sweltering 90° outside, it is always a brisk 67° in Collections. Down there, safety first means putting artifact preservation above one’s preferential temperature level. Despite the chill, Collections is a candy store for little art historian children. As I have been becoming more and more acquainted with Japanese American history, every artifact I come across has an amazing story behind it just waiting and wanting to be told. Stories that will eventually be told, as we continue to work on the hefty task of creating a new exhibit, which will shed a new light onto the WWII story. What I will be doing at the museum this summer, is simply a small piece to an eventually big puzzle.

This marks the end of my second week working at the museum and I cannot wait to see all the cavities I will have by the end of my ten week trip to the candy store and the great tan I’ll have from spending all my time under artificial lighting. But seriously speaking, the lack of a tan I will have by the end of these ten weeks will so be worth it.