Nov 21

WIT Life #377: Things She Carries exhibition at Seizan Gallery

Interpreter/Translator/Writer Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03) presents WIT Life, a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as art, film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she offers some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Recently I had the opportunity to interpret at an artist talk for photographer Aya Fujioka, whose collection Here Goes River is part of the current exhibition Things She Carries at Seizan Gallery. Hiroshima-born Fujioka began taking photos of her hometown after returning in 2013. Thanks to a scholarship from the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan, she had spent the previous five years in New York where she created the series Life Studies. Here Goes River depicts everyday life in modern Hiroshima, and one portion of the collection focuses on the apartment she moved back into from its initial empty state to getting filled up over time via being lived in.

Photographer Aya Fujioka (center) with David Wilentz and Stacy Smith

Although Fujioka doesn’t deal with the topic of the atomic bomb directly, its legacy can’t help but be reflected in her work. During the talk, one photo she highlighted was of a group of high school students practicing dance choreography in front of the iconic Atomic Bomb Dome. Fujioka shared that she received a lot of bashing on social media when this photo was unveiled. Hiroshima citizens decried her for tarnishing the memory of those who lost their lives there, but she explained that for her as an artist the work would be meaningless without the dome. Always striving to avoid didacticism, Fujioka saw its inclusion as an opportunity for people to reinterpret the image and its symbolism. She also noted that when this photo was part of an exhibition in Tokyo there was no pushback, so she’s wondering how it will be received by New York audiences. She hopes that her work in general will enable viewers to imagine the Hiroshima of today.

Fujioka’s work is on display along with that of Mine Okubo and Yukiko Hata. The collection from Okubo, who was born in California in 1912 and passed away in 2001, features charcoal drawings from her incarceration at Camp Topaz Relocation Center in Utah from 1942 to 1945. Sendai-born Hata’s brightly colored oil paintings reference 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake and other aspects of Japanese contemporary society.

Things She Carries will be on view through December 16th at Seizan Gallery (525 W. 26th St.; open Tuesday-Saturday from 11 am-6 pm). Just like the venue in my previous post, this gallery also abuts the High Line so why not take a walk to enjoy the last of the fall colors? Happy Thanksgiving (and 勤労感謝の日) everyone!

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