Date looms large in artwork
Lawrence residents' Sept. 11 images chosen for D.C. exhibit
When the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked a year ago, the nation’s artists mourned alongside every other American.
But once the shock and emotional paralysis lifted, they picked up their paintbrushes, guitars and movie cameras to document some aspect of the experience or its aftermath.
Within a month of the terrorist attacks, Lawrence artists Roger Shimomura and Janet Davidson-Hues were among the Americans tapped by the Antone Gallery in Washington, D.C., to participate in an exhibit on how artists responded to the tragedy.
Shimomura’s work, an acyrlic painting titled “Not Pearl Harbor!,” addresses the reactions of Americans to Arab-Americans, Middle Eastern-Americans and members of the Islamic faith after the attacks.
“In the case of this painting, there’s a single figure with an airplane crashing in the background. It’s the World War II Japanese turned into a Taliban, with a Japanese zero crashing,” he said.
Comparisons of Sept. 11 to the attack on Pearl Harbor made many Japanese Americans nervous because it reminded them of the internment of their families and friends during World War II. Shimomura and his family spent time at Camp Minidoka, an internment camp in Idaho. His paintings, prints and theater works address sociopolitical issues of Asian-Americans and are often inspired by 56 years of diaries kept by his immigrant grandmother.
“The comparison to Pearl Harbor is what hit home. It was like rerunning an old movie,” he said, recalling how his family was driving in their car on Dec. 7, 1941, in Seattle when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor came over their radio. “My family knew what it meant. We made a U-turn and knew we had to get home and out of visibility. So I immediately thought of this story and thought of those of Arab or Middle Eastern extraction in this country. It’s part of the story of that day.”
Davidson-Hues created her work, a mixed media titled “Journal 2001,” a few days after the terrorist attacks in an attempt to deal with her emotions. She and her husband, both art professors at Kansas University, have an apartment near Union Square in New York City, and she was scheduled to board a flight to New York at noon Sept. 11.
To create her piece, she ripped the pages from a book, burned its spine and set it against a stark, empty background. The words “Oh, My God!” and “God Bless America” two phrases often heard in the hours after the World Trade Center attacks sandwich the book spine.
“Doing the piece was cathartic,” she said. “I was profoundly affected by what happened. It was so unreal and so unacceptable that my brain didn’t want to admit what I was seeing (on the television).”
After showing in Washington, the exhibit traveled to Philadelphia.
“Someone bought my painting,” Shimomura said, “and I donated the profits to pay for the shipping expenses for everyone in the exhibition.”