Thursday, May 23, 2013

Munio Makuuchi

Munio Takahashi Makuuchi. American, 1934-2000. On Boy’s Day I 'I.D.' with Rocky Mountain Salmon../...So where’s the Salmon?1985. Drypoint and etching printed in black on paper. Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933, Fund. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe. SC 2007:9

Artist/poet Munio Makuuchi (born Howard Munio Takahashi) was a third-generation Japanese-American born in Seattle. From 1941 to 1945, he and his family were confined in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans in southern Idaho. This pivotal childhood experience became the basis for a lifetime of visual and poetic works. After their release from the camp, the artist and his family settled permanently in Idaho. Makuuchi studied art education, printmaking, and painting, and taught both in the U.S. and Africa. He retired from teaching and returned to Seattle in the mid-1980s.

Like all of Makuuchi’s visual works, On Boy’s Dayrelates directly to his life history. The twin images of Mount Rainier and Mount Fuji are visible in the background of this print, alluding to his dual Japanese/American identity. The central image of the print is a school of leaping fish bisected by a bamboo pole bearing a flag. The pole and flag are part of the rituals celebrating the Japanese festival “Boy’s Day” (Tango-no-sekku),in which paper carp (one per male child) are flown in celebration of the healthy growth of sons. The carp, a symbol of resilience and determination, is seen as an embodiment of male virtues. Makuuchi replaces the traditional carp with an image of salmon, a fish native to the Northwest coast, which he felt had more resonance with his past.

In the poem referred to in the title of this print, Makuuchi mourns what he saw as the cultural assimilation of many Asian Americans during the post-War period.

I.

Steelheads/Steelhearts

On boy's day I I.D.
with slant/Sockeyes of
Steelheads/hearts of the
Rocky Mountains rather
than flying paper Carp...

II.

Slant/Sockeyes

They tagged and released us
after four years
in a USA reeducation camp.....
They tried to drum out the drums of the Afro/Americans.....
And the Latino still speak
and eat Spanish
500 years later.....
We went 1000 miles
up inland Rocky Mountains
with special long enduring
genes and chromosomes
only to be watered down
Only a few are reaching
the headwaters
anymore
When it comes to our kind soul vittles -
“No you can't take that away from me!"

Munio Makuuchi

This work is on view in Collecting Art of Asia until May 26, 2013.

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