Didn’t want to post it until Stan had a chance to see them first. Now available for Yo-JAVA!
But it is now online!
During the summer when we have fewer school visitors, the Education Unit runs summer sessions for the volunteers. Here are some quick, recent highlights…
7/22/11 (Last Friday) – Clement led a special tour of his artwork featured in ROUND TRIP: Eight East Los Angeles College Alumni Artists at the newly opened Vincent Price Art Museum at East LA College. Standing in front of his low-rider rickshaw with “Yo No Soy Chino” written on it, we thought about Clement’s experiences growing up Japanese American in East LA.
7/29/11 (Today) – Frank Kawana was interviewed by his grandson, Cole, about being a second generation maker of kamaboko. Frank, possibly the only person on the mainland who can do it by hand, showed us HOW TO MAKE KAMABOKO. (Haven’t you always wondered how this is done?) Cole conducted an interview that was absolutely fascinating, even to a vegetarian like me.
It was eaten up so quickly that Clement’s picture of the last slice is the only photographic evidence we have. Those who were lucky enough to taste it said Frank’s fresh kamaboko was even better than what you buy in the store. So when you have Yamasa kamaboko, think of the Kawanas. More info about the interview—as well as tips on how to do an interview of your own—will be available shortly on our Discover Nikkei Web site.
7/29/11 (Today) – While Lynn was leading the volunteers on a tour of JANM’s current exhibition Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo, Stan Sakai, the artist himself, stopped by. He gave us even more insight into the making of Usagi Yojimbo.
As Richard M. (who gets most of the photo credits on this post) said, “We really hit the jackpot today.”
Ever thought about volunteering for the Museum and joining in on the fun???
I have been told that while perusing through a gallery space, the average person spends about 5 seconds in front of a work of art before moving on to another piece. I, myself, am guilty of this, as I have found myself racing through exhibits, which would take hours upon hours to properly absorb and appreciate. Although I have had the pleasure of being immersed in art from a variety of galleries and cultures, from the many we have here in Southern California to those on the East Coast and have seen a generous share works from renowned masters to local Michiganian artists, there unfortunately does not exist an encyclopedia of “Art Seen by Alexa” chronicling the art that I have seen in my lifetime. I’m one of the last people on this earth to have a photographic memory, so that’s understandable right? Pass by someone’s masterpiece and appreciate it for the time being, but soon it floats off into the deep dark abyss that are our forgotten memories. It happens. But I was recently taught the copious amounts of hard work that goes into us viewers being treated with eye-candy, museum style. And trust me, it deserves way more than the five-second glance us Plain Jane’s and Average Joe’s give it.
For the past few weeks, I have been given a taste into what it takes to bring an exhibition into fruition as we prepared for the opening of the museum’s new exhibit, Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. I am not a nerd when it comes to the world of comic books, but educating myself in the world of Usagi Yojimbo was as easy as picking up a comic book, literally. Definitely something I wish I could have said for chemistry and calculus in high school. Portions of my past weeks have consisted of spending one-on-one time with Stan Sakai’s artwork as my fellow intern, Yuiko and I, transformed Stan’s works from being brilliant works on paper to being works on paper that are now matted, framed, and hanging in the galleries. Hours were spent in the Collections department as we measured, cut mats, drilled holes, and were reminded that our math skills were a little rusty from when we had last used them in high school.
Despite the refresher we needed on adding and subtracting, we successfully hauled plexi and frames around Collections and used power tools, which ultimately amounted into the works of Stan Sakai ready for your viewing pleasure. This was an invaluable opportunity to see original works up-close and personal as opposed to behind glass and a velvet rope. I am always a fan of not only final works, but the progress and process behind them and it was awesome to see the artist’s original pencil sketches underneath his final products in ink. At the end of our few weeks, everyone’s hard work was revealed and the museum’s new exhibition looks amazing! So if you’re ever in the mood to delve deeper into the world of Usagi Yojimbo or witness the culmination of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the finalization of this exhibit, come check out Year of the Rabbit!!!
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 🙂
We recently honored cartoonist Stan Sakai at our 2011 Gala Dinner where he was awarded the Cultural Ambassador Award.For those of you who are not familiar with his work, he’s best known for his iconic character, Usagi Yojimbo—a samurai rabbit in feudal Japan, which he created in 1984.
His comic books have been translated into a dozen languages and in Empire magazine’s list of greatest comic book characters of all time, Usagi Yojimbo placed 31st, ahead of Green Lantern, Daredevil, and Hellboy!
We’re also working with Stan on a retrospective exhibition of his work that opens on July 9. Our award-winning Watase Media Arts Center staff is working on a short documentary to accompany the exhibition. Last summer they went to the Comicon in San Diego where they interviewed some of his fellow cartoonists who all agreed that he’s one of the nicest guys in the business. After meeting him, we all agree and can’t wait for his exhibition!
Chris Komai, the Public Information Officer at JANM, wrote an article about Stan for the Gala Dinner journal. It’s now online on our Discover Nikkei site:
Stan Sakai: The Cartoonist
by Chris Komai
Read the article >>
For more info about the upcoming exhibition:
Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo
July 9 through October 30, 2011
Learn more about this exhibition >>