Curator‘s Comments

Floyd Cheung, Associate Professor of English Language and Literature, Smith College

Every three or four years, I teach AMS230: Narratives of Internment, a class that takes an interdisciplinary approach to grappling with questions like why did the U.S. government incarcerate without trial 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, what was the experience like for those incarcerated, and in what ways have narratives contributed to how we remember and forget this event in American history?

The artist Munio Makuuchi was a boy when he and his family were interned.  In the years following the war until his death in 2000, the experience haunted him.  Makuuchi represented his views on the internment in prints, poetry, and autobiographical writing.  The last time that I taught AMS230, one of my students, Ariella Frishberg, wrote a fine commentary on how his work depicts cycles of movement, constraint, and renewal in Japanese American experience.

When I learned that it was possible to purchase Makuuchi’s artwork, curator Aprile Gallant acquired this and other prints for the College.  Birds, like the ones pictured here, often represent loss and desire in Makuuchi’s and other Japanese Americans’ work.  For instance, students always love Toyo Suyemoto’s poem “Hokku”:

The geese flew over
At dusk--I shivered, not with
Cold, but sense of loss.

Where do the geese go?
Can they escape from autumn
And return to spring?

Let me follow them:
The birds know better than I
Which way leads to spring.

Munio Takahashi Makuuchi. American, 1934–2000

Hard Edge Drawings al la Dad, n.d.

Etching on paper.

Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933 Fund

ID Number: SC 2012:59-3