Resilience artist spotlight: Kristine Aono

Told from the point of view of Sansei (third generation) Japanese Americans, Resilience—A Sansei Sense of Legacy is an exhibition of eight artists whose work reflects on the effect of Japanese American internment in World War II as it resonated from generation to generation. Resilience will be on view in the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery until May 22, 2022. Here’s a spotlight on one of the exhibit’s artists Kristine Aono in her own words.

Kristine Aono’s artist statement

I am a Sansei, born to parents who experienced WWII as children incarcerated with their families for three and a half years in Minidoka, Jerome and Rohwer. Raising their children in Middle America, my well-meaning parents tried to bury the shame of their incarceration by alluding to “camp” as a benign place from their childhood. Eventually, we civil rights-era Sansei would unearth the truth, and that knowledge of our family histories would shape who we are and how we approach issues such as justice, racial prejudice, and civil rights. I address these topics in my art as a way to keep these stories alive and highlight their relevance to our present day.

Process is very important to me, beginning with in-depth research, whether it be pilgrimages to the sites of all the camps, poring through documents and photographs at the National Archives, or recording oral histories from former internees. Fabrication of my artwork can use a variety of materials: dirt, rusted nails, photographs, documents, artifacts, fabric, wood, etc. in both stand-alone sculpture and installation art. Increasingly, collaboration with communities has become an integral component of my process. This is achieved either during installation, through interaction with the work, or workshops with community groups. I see this as a natural progression of my work and its focus of connectedness.

Daruma of Resilience, 2019 – 2021

large rounded yellow sculpture with stylized facial features

The spirit of perseverance is reflected in the Japanese legend of Daruma, or Bodhidharma, a Buddhist monk who meditated so long that his arms and legs withered away. He became a symbol of dedication to a goal and persistence through adversity, exemplified in the creation of weighted Daruma dolls that will always turn upright after a fall. From this legend also grew the custom of setting goals using papier-mâché Daruma figures as motivation; sold with blank white areas for eyes, the owner paints one eye upon setting a goal, its blank other eye used as a reminder and motivation. Upon completing the goal, the owner then paints in the remaining eye. This process is full of a sense of hope, an enduring component of gaman—patient endurance—and discipline.

Daruma of Resilience is covered with text: copies of testimony from camp survivors; definitions of perseverance, resilience, and gaman; copies of family letters; and other printed material depicting acts of resilience throughout history.

Brea Black is the Art Librarian and Book Arts Curator in the Alice C. Sabatini Gallery. Her favorite thing is to share the wonderful world of artists' books with the community. She also leads the Arts & Crafts team and teaches workshops on book making and a variety of other crafty topics.