Roger Shimomura Japanese And American Cultures English Literature Essay

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Every artist has their own way of creating an artwork. Most of the artworks are influenced by artists' life style. Roger Shimomura is one of the artists whom his artworks are influenced by his own experience, his artworks deal with the sociopolitical issue that created discrimination, stereotypes and racism. Roger Shimomura was born in Seattle on June 26th,1939. He was born around the time when Japan attacked the U.S. in the Pearl Harbor and World War II. "Out of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, 62% of whom were U.S. citizens, were regarded as suspects, and spies, no matter how long they had lived in the U.S. or how devoted they were to their adoptive country. It constituted the single largest forced relocation in U.S. history (Regine)." "Roger and his family were forced into a Japanese internment camp during WWII, first in Puyallup, WA and then in Idaho, where as a 3-year old, he was surrounded by guards and high-security fences. After the war, he graduated school in Seattle and studied commercial design at the University of Washington, receiving a BA in 1961. He received an MFA in painting at Syracuse University in 1969 and joined the faculty of the University of Kansas, rising to become a University Distinguished Professor in 1994 (Washington.edu)."

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According to University of Washington, "Rogers' experience of life as an Asian-American in Kansas led him to paint about culture, discrimination, and ethnic stereotypes." Roger Shimomura uses painting to analyze similarities and difference between Japanese and American cultures. Most of Shimomura's artwork theme is about the discrimination experienced in the U.S. who is a third-generation American and discrimination Japanese and other Asian Americans faced. "Roger Shimomura's paintings, prints, and theatre pieces address sociopolitical issues of Asian America and have often been inspired by diaries kept by his late immigrant grandmother for 56 years of her life." Many of his paintings are from his own experiences. "Shimomura has had over 100 solo and 200 group exhibitions in the US, Canada, and Japan. Shimomura's work exhibited in both private and public collections, including the Smithsonian Museum of American History, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art (Sallyo)."

Most of "Roger Shimomura's paintings are simple and emotionally objective (Tfaoi)." His uses of simple and colorful colors create every objectives stand out. Roger Shimomura "abandoned the appropriation of traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints he had used in earlier work to adopt a graphically strong style that shows his interest in American comic books. The simplified forms, stark black outlines, and brilliant colors show that Shimomura's interest in Pop Art. Roger's clean, flat style, drawn from American comic books and Japanese ukiyo-e, draws viewers in with its pop art appeal, before confronting them with bold, pointed tableaux of racism and ignorance (Tfaoi)." Roger Shimomura uses both Japanese and American style to form a new artwork so that he can attract both American and Japanese. By using both Japanese and American style, American and Japanese people can understand his artwork more easily.

Ethnic stereotypes are the focus of Shimomura's 1992 series or Yellow No same. Although the series addresses the World War 2 Japanese internment, "Shimomura's pithy title derives from gang conflicts in his high school that occurred long after the war (Stamey 29)." He explains that Japanese American students allied themselves with the African American but would never take sides with the Chinese American, chanting "Yellow no same." Discrimination has also occurred in military service in Korea. Unlike his uncles, who fought in the segregated all-Japanese unit, Shimomura served with white officers, who nicknamed him "pop-up" because "I looked like the targets we all practiced shooting at." Even though these officers accepted Shimomura as "an hononary white" he notes that "in the U.S. Army, the refrain was "Yellow all same (30)." Even though he is considered as U.S. Army, he had to face discrimination because of his physical appearance. Even though he spoke same language as other Americans his physical appearance wasn't accepted by "white" American society.

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American Infamy #2 illustrates the Japanese lives in the internment camp, an armed guard watching over the barracks and the citizens going about their daily routines. "Children are playful, young lovers walk arm in arm, women and men talk in groups but there are also several figures in complete despair-an elderly woman seated with her head down, other figures looking dejectedly outward through the barbed wire, or pacing in a depressed stance (American Infamy)." As time goes by, the hope of the Japanese people is fading away because they realized that they cannot do anything to change the situations; they are trying to adopt the new environment that they faced. An American Diary shows assimilation, how they had to adapt to the new environment in the camp and eat only certain type of American food that the camp provided. The Japanese people had no choice. It is kind of awkward that she is using chopsticks instead of fork to eat sausage. On both paintings, Roger used dark colors probably to show depression among Japanese. Even though both pictures show the lives of Japanese in the internment camp, An American Diary gives me stronger impression on how they felt at the camp.

Roger dealt with racism and stereotypes, through West Seattle Shotgun, he expresses anger by creating his experience into an art piece. "In 1958, Roger dated a Swedish American girl named Jan Johnson. Jan lived in West Seattle, an area known to be hostile to people of color (Lippard)." After what happened in Pearl Harbor, all Japanese people had to face racism. "One day, when Roger was driving Jan home, Jan asked him to drop her off just one block from her house. Roger asked why, she told him that when she informed her parents that she was going out to dinner with Roger Shimomura, her father said he did not want her dating "Oriental people." If she dates him and gets caught, he said he would shoot "the Jap" with his gun like he had done in World War II. While she argued with her parents, her father got out his shotgun, loaded it, and placed it next to the front door (Lippard)." His experience as Japanese American was very harsh, American viewed as just "evil" and "ugly with deformed teeth". Jan's parents didn't care about the characteristics of Roger and just stereotyped Roger because of his race. After arguments with her parent she still dated Roger, and as Jan got out of Roger's car a block from her home, her last words were, "You think I'm kidding?" What I like about Roger's artwork is that he uses many of his life experience in his painting. I think creating artwork through own experience is not that easy. As for me, sharing my own experience is embarrassing. In this painting, yellow-skinned man represent Roger who is licking a blonde hair white lady represents Jan. The person who points a shotgun toward Roger is Jan's father.

I interviewed one of my friends at De Anza. Shiho Ito is a Nissei who is second generation Japanese American. She said even though her physical appearance looks Japanese, she is more like American. She never been to Japan and she doesn't speak it very well. Shiho Ito and her family speak English when they communicate. She said she loves Japanese food but she prefers American food. Personally, I enjoy eating American food, but I cannot live with Korean food because I am Korean. I wonder how hard it was for Japanese people back then in the camp to not eat their cultural food. When she was young she felt discriminated by her white American friends because of her skin color. Even though she was an American, the young children thought she was different. She didn't fit into neither Issei (first generation) Japanese nor White society. I can imagine how hard it was for first generation Japanese American to assimilate to American food in the camp. It shows how hard it was for Japanese people to eat American food daily and how they missed their own cultural food. An American Diary shows how hard it was for Japanese to assimilate, by using chopsticks instead of fork to eat ham and sausages.

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Many of Shimomura's artworks are influenced by his own experiences and his grandmother who kept her diaries at the camp. Artists can express anger, hatred, sadness, happiness through art. Roger expresses how he felt at the camp and draws attention by creating them into art pieces. Artists create their own art pieces through their own experiences. Everything we see, hear, experience becomes a part of who we are, and when artists create works those are influenced through what they experience. Most art pieces shows how artists, through narrative and storytelling, transform experiences, histories, anecdotes and memories into a wide variety of contemporary art forms. Although Roger Shimomura's paintings are simple, it tells us a lot of how it feels like to be discriminated. Artwork is one of the ways to record what happened in the past. It can pass down to generation to generation so that they can relate to current issue and learn from those mistakes.