HomeAsian AmericansArtist's showcase reflects family's history in Japanese internment camps

Artist’s showcase reflects family’s history in Japanese internment camps

Los Angeles-based artist Kelly Akashi debuted her first major museum solo showcase at the San José Museum of Art on Saturday. The showcase will run from September 3, 2022, through May 21, 2023.

According to the San José Museum of Art (SJMA), “Kelly Akashi: Formations” contains an overview of decades of work. It includes her newest work “Conjoined Tumbleweeds (2022),” which explores the impact of her father’s imprisonment at an internment camp in Poston, Arizona.

 “It wasn’t something my family wanted to talk about,” Akashi said to the SF Chronicle Datebook. “It was this very major part of my family’s history that I don’t really know a lot about.”

The exhibition contains 43 bronze and glass sculptures, installations and photographs, according to the SF Chronicle Datebook.

The third-generation Californian earned her bachelor’s degree from Otis College of Art and Design and a master’s in fine arts from the University of Southern California. Akashi trained in analog photography and became interested in photography’s connection to time.

The concept of time has since become a key element of her artwork.

Akashi is drawn to “old-world craft techniques,” stated the SJMA. These techniques include glass blowing and casting, bronze and silicone casting, rope making and candle making.

“Akashi uses a familiar language of craft—of skilled experience and material knowledge—in a way that draws from tradition, but reveals internal encounters, juxtapositions, and relationships that push towards transformation,” SJMA Senior Curator Lauren Schell Dickens said in a press release.

The SF Chronicle Datebook stated that Akashi viewed materials as having “strong memory.”

In January 2021, Akashi began visiting Poston after a friend brought up the possibility of trees at the abandoned camps being there during incarceration. Since then, Akashi visited the sites to gather items that now appear in her artwork.

“A lot of people’s families have hidden stories: things you know but you don’t know and you don’t have access to them anymore,” Akashi told SF Chronicle Datebook. “For me that journey is very personal to figure out how you want to access it. It’s hard to materialize. So I’m trying to materialize it.”

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