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about Migratory patterns

:: Migratory Patterns ::

Throughout my artistic explorations I have oscillated in the studio between making bodies of work that reflect an incredibly personal and micro view of the world to works that take a more macro view. The “personal” work typically manifests as portraiture [but not in the photorealistic sense] of and about loved ones and the “macro” work –while usually still related to something in my life view - is a means to research and potentially make beautiful, or mend, ideas and objects that are threatening, harmful, frightening, and complicated. Until now I have been unable to figure out a way to have these two strands of work live together in once space.

In developing the ideas for this show the idea of MIGRATION kept coming to the forefront. As a ½ Jewish ½ Japanese woman I personally haven’t emigrated from a foreign country – but I often think about place and heritage and hybridity.  I only have to look to my mother or my great grandparents on my dad’s side to brush up against my family’s own migration.


In thinking about frightening things that can migrate the other thing that came to mind was the radiation that has been leaking from the nuclear power plants ever since the earthquake on March 11, 2011. My mother has family in the region of where the quake took place and many of my friends and family – even those in “safe” areas like Tokyo have been incredibly effected by the disaster.

In researching the radiation and it’s continuing levels I came across a map where readings of radiation were represented by color and line length – green being the safer and lower level – to red – the highest and most dangerous level. I knew I wanted to recreate the map using embroidery and thread. In truth, none of the radiation levels on these maps/charts is safe.

I’ve represented the readings in the region 5 days – March 16, 2011, 30 days – April 11, 2011, 6 months - August 11, 2011 and one year – March 12, 2012 after the earthquake. In conjunction I’ve crocheted doilies to make the “key” informing the viewer of what amount of radiation is measured by each color.


In thinking about the macro portion of migration I wanted to research things that related directly to my Japanese heritage. In WWII the Japanese developed and launched 9300 FU-GO’s – or balloon bombs. From 6 launching pads in Japan they sent these balloons over via jet streams – while mostly ineffective [6 people were killed in one incident] over 200 parts and pieces landed in the lower 48 of US. The government was highly effective in keeping these attacks quiet as they didn’t want US citizens to panic, they also wanted the Japanese to think that they weren’t effective. The US press cooperated and thus the Japanese stopped the launches 6 months after they started.

Mapping of Fugo
The felt map of the US shows all the collected part and pieces of balloon bombs that landed in the lower 48 US – red dotted lines have been used in historically in War books to indicated bomb targets on maps. I used red since it’s also representative of the Japanese flag.

The drawing represents the jet streams and the distances that bombs actually traveled to from one of the launching cities [Sabishio, Iwanuma, Nakoso, Otsu, Ichinomiya] to the locales in the US where complete bombs were found. [Adin, CA, Riverdale MT, Grimes, CA, Bly OR [where the deaths were], Tampico, MT]

May 5, 1945
There were 6 casualties as a result of the Fu-Go plan. Elise Mitchell and 5 children who were embarking on a picnic with pastor Archie Mitchell in Gearhart Mountain forest near Bly, Oregon. They were going to go on a picnic when the children discovered the balloon and it exploded. This piece is a dedication of sorts to them. The map pinpoints the place [with a red map pin]. The 6 empty balloons are for the 6 lost. I rendered the balloon with machine stitching – harking to the idea of quilting [safety, warmth], but leaving the tails long to invoke thoughts of loss, destruction.

GRID DRAWING INSTALLATION [giant self portrait]

In doing research and creating the portrait pieces [explained below], I started falling in love with doing the drawings on graph paper. I purposefully left them black and white and provided a color chart of the colors that would be used if I had colored them in. This was clearly stemming from my teaching a color theory course where I was making my students chart colors all the time. A friend came into the studio and I said that if I was brave I would just make a series of those drawings because they were so satisfying – but I couldn’t figure out how to justify it with-in the context of the show. She said why don’t you – and just have them be the “research” for the other pieces. They are waiting to be included in the migratory maps.

So I decided to do 38 of them. They all relate to me. They represent places I’ve been, or locales I’ve visited, or objects that have meaning to me. Some are direct representations of photos I’ve taken – others are just iconic or representative – more state birds and flowers, etc….


I often like to make work with things that I know… so for part one of this show I decided to track my own migration, and the life path of those loved ones closest to me. For each of these I mapped the cities of where we were born and then the cities in which we have lived. The mark making [done by various means – colored pencil, ink, paint, stitching] actually indicated the number of miles between the locales. So for example there are 319 miles between Santa Barbara and Oakland [where I went to High School and where I reside now] and so there are 319 marks surrounding the two dots that demarcate those locales. With-in these portraits clues to personality and locale are also included – felt maps of states or countries as well as drawings on graph paper that relate to locations as well – state birds or fish or flowers. The colors also resonate with me as reflections of the person the portrait is mapping.

KEY to these pieces:

Watashii – home sweet home –
The three houses are drawings of the 3 houses I’ve considered “mine” in my life in California – my home in LA, Santa Barbara and my current home in Oakland. The felt piece in the lower right says “home sweet home” in Japanese. The map on top is my migration from Tucson, AZ where I was born, to Los Angeles where I grew up and then to Oakland/Bay Area where I went to college and still reside.

Watashii – California girl
The mark making/map is the same as above piece.
The butterfly is the California state insect – the Dogface butterfly [I also like how this links to Japanese culture and their belief in what butterflies stand for – souls of the living and dead, and memories]
From each city I’ve represented in the Japanese numeral system the number of years I lived in each city.

Danne san –
Boston, to Santa Barbara and back – and then to Bay Area –
The felt state is Massachusetts
The dog is a Boston Terrier – the dog of the state and also links to dietrich since he works in the animal business

Ocasan –
My mom lived in Ichinoseiki – a small town in Japan – moved to Tokyo and then to LA, Santa Barbara, and Oakland.
Red is clearly related to Japan
The Poppy is the State flower of CA – and my mom is an avid gardener
The drawing of the abacus clues into how many miles are between two locales.

Ottosan –
My dad – born in Detroit, moved to LA, Bay Area, Tokyo, LA, Santa Barbara, Oakland
The bird is an American Robin – the state bird of Michigan – and my dad is now an avid bird feeder
Japan is represented in felt
The abacus represent the total number of miles traveled between different locales

Ojisan – Obasan -
My grandparents – grandma was born in Minneapolis, moved to Detroit. Met my grandfather there [he was born there]. Detroit to Beaufort SC and then Jacksonville FL [for the navy], back to Detroit and then LA.
The pink lady slipper is the state flower of Minnesota, the brook trout is the state fish of  Michigan – my grandmother also gardened [owned a seed business with my mom for a bit], my grandfather loved fishing.
in the upper right are Hebrew numbers that represent the 9th of March 1941 – 26 of july 2005 – the length of time my grandparents were married [my grandfather died on july 26, 2005]