Friday, May 4, 2012

Art and the Human Spirit, Part II

Thought for the day: Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit. [Bern Williams]

[PART I can be found in the previous post.]

This statue is located outside the Bremen Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum in Atlanta. It was at that museum that my hubby and I gained a more visceral understanding of  the internment of Japanese-Americans during the second world war. We went there to see a special exhibit of some of those internees' artwork.

The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. [Carl Jung]

Estelle Ishigo
On the day we attended,  a group of  Japanese-American educators were also there to teach a bunch of teachers and others about this time in history. (How lucky was THAT, huh?) Some of the presenters lived in one of the camps personally, or had family members who had, and others served as American soldiers during the war.

And one of the presenters showed a film. An amazing film. Days of Waiting won a short documentary Academy Award for creator Stephen Okasaka in 1990, and it tells the story of Estelle Ishigo, a Caucasian woman who chose to go to an internment camp with her Japanese husband.  Here's a very short snippet of the movie, just to give you a taste:

It is the mission of art to remind man from time to time that he is human...  [Ben Shahn]

Okay, I don't want to turn this into a three-part post, so let me get right to showing you some of the artwork in the exhibit. Ready?

The Art of Gaman is the exhibit's title . Gaman is a Japanese term from Zen Buddhism that means enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.

One of Estelle Ishigo's many drawings.

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.  [Pablo Picasso]

These flowers were made from pipe cleaners, and put into mayonnaise jars.

The artist has a special task. That of reminding men of their humanity and the promise of their creativity.  [Lewis Mumford]

Man must live and create. Create to the point of tears. [Albert Camus]

Sorry about the light reflection in this shot, but two things I found especially poignant about this portrait are the pillow and wall-hanging, which show pride and support for this man's son, who was away ... fighting in the war ... as a member of the U.S. military.

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. [Ernest Hemingway]

Just as a farmer provides sustenance for the body, the artist provides sustenance for the soul. [Arturo Tello]

There were many, many more things to be seen in the exhibit, like wood carvings, and some amazing jewelry and decorative pieces made out of colored string. But I hope what you've seen here was enough to provide you with a touch of understanding and inspiration. In spite of the circumstances, the human spirit prevailed.

            Art is the glorification of the human spirit. [Hans Hoffman]

For those of you who live in close proximity to Atlanta, this uplifting exhibit will be open until the end of May. Definitely worth the trip. Bremen's permanent holocaust museum is worth seeing, too, but there is nothing uplifting to see there.

Just haunting...

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you. [Ralph Waldo Emerson]


  1. A wonderful exhibition - - and tangible proof that creativity and the human spirit can never be stifled.

  2. How amazing that people can create such beauty in such ugly circumstances. Thank you for sharing this visit with us.

  3. Even under the worst conditions, the human heart and soul and brain wish to create. I'm glad there was beauty in the exhibit.

  4. It's so important to keep alive the memories of our darkest hours. But slightly worrying that, back home, the Japanese see fit to change history. School children there learn nothing of Pearl Harbour or other home-grown atrocities.... I wonder why!

  5. I hope that this exhibit makes it to DC. I will check into that [if it is a "travelling" type of exhibit].

    We have the permanent Holocaust museum here and for years I have used the excuse that Wallene is just too young to go. Well, that isn't true anymore and I although I truly want to go, part of me is hesitant because as uplifting as I know parts of it will be because of the enduring spirit of the millions lost, I know how truly sad it is.

    Thank you for sharing the beauty of this exhibit. I like that it is named "Gaman". That we all may have that wherewithal.

  6. I wish I had a real award to give you for these posts.

  7. We had much the same thing happen in Canada in British Columbia.

  8. Wow. That is a truly inspiring exhibit. You can't cage the human spirit--creativity will always release it.

  9. Susan, what troubles me is that so much of the art and literature of this milieu has a certain toxicity about it. Whereas in the examples and quotes you have assembled for this excellent post show artists taking in severity, cruelty and despair and transforming it, much of what I see on the shelves, today, especially for young people, is a regurgitation of horrible things.

    I carry this weight. I wish so much to address it in an effective manner.

    You're going to think I'm a big crybaby and maybe I am but reading the words you put together have me with a salted knot at the top of my throat.

    Thank you for this.

  10. Thanks for these last two posts, Susan. They have certainly given me something to think about.

  11. Jon- You're right. The exhibit proved that it's possible for the human spirit to soar, in spite of ugly tethers.

    Rosalind- Yes, creating beauty in ugly circumstances ... that's good way to put it. And thank YOU for taking the time to stop by.

    Dianne- There WAS beauty. And hope. Even snippets of joy.

    Arleen- Thank you, ma'am.

    Cro- I suspect most countries are somewhat guilty of presenting their histories in the most favorable light. It's a shame, too. We can't learn the lessons and improve on past mistakes if we aren't aware of them.

    Skippy- The holocaust museum tells a story we mustn't ever forget, but I didn't find anything even close to "uplifting" there. The pictures of all those people ... all the gaunt faces and those eyes ... those eyes, they haunt me. The horror of being immersed in that time of history takes your breath away, and leaves a hollow ache in your chest. I don't think I could ever return. Not that I have to, because those faces, those eyes, remain carved into my soul. Be forewarned. If you decide to go to the one it D.C., it'll be a devastating experience.

    Laura- Thank you. That's award enough.

    Delores- Maybe you can tell us about it from the Canadian side sometime.

    Linda- Well put.

    Suze- If anyone can effectively address your concerns about the toxic elements in today's art and literature, I trust that you can. Go for it! I'd be very interested in reading your thought processes on this. No, I don't think you're a crybaby at all. I had that same salted knot at the top of my throat (great description!)when I wrote these posts. The exhibit touched me deeply, and that you had the same reaction? Thrills me. (It doesn't take much to make me happy.)

  12. What a wonderful testimony to the enduring human spirit. Obviously this was a very moving experience for you to see this exhibit. Thanks for sharing that with us.

    BTW, if you get a chance, stop by my blog today. I have an award for you.

  13. Dream it- You're very welcome. Thanks for stopping by to read them!

  14. Maryann- Thanks. It was an extremely moving experience for me. I'll be popping by your blog asap. Thank you, ma'am!

  15. Thank you for sharing this. Painful, inspiring, though provoking and enriching.

  16. What a touching post and exhibit. I especially loved the portrait of the man with the son in the military. I visited an exhibit on the internment of the Japanese Americans at the Smithsonian about 10 years ago and was stunned by it. Until I was an adult I never even knew about the situation as it was totally glossed over in history class. Thanks for sharing this!

  17. Liza- You're welcome. I'm glad you found it as amazing as I did.

    Julie- I'm glad you liked it. I wonder if the Smithsonian exhibit was a temporary or permanent one. I don't recall seeing anything there about the internment, but I'll sure look for it the next time we visit.

  18. I love how every time I stop by I learn something from you. That little snipit of the movie was so good. Wonderful quotes!

  19. Tracy Jo- Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  20. A beautiful post. That is quite an exhibit.

  21. Those pipe cleaner flowers are amazing. As is all the other art.

  22. Outstanding post. Really excellent. I am back and open to the public, but I don't show up in Google Reader yet. I hope to soon. Lola returns next week, and she's as naughty as ever.

    Janie Lola

  23. Wonderful exhibits and quotes - loved the Hemingway and the farmer / artist one - and the Estelle Ishigo drawing... Thanks for the glimpse of what you saw, and felt. Found your line about the holocaust museum especially poignant.

  24. Thanks for sharing the exhibit and the quotes. Very uplifting.

  25. That is a truly uplifting exhibition. Shows how the human spirit can survive in the bleakest of times.

  26. Anthony- Thanks. Yes, it really is an amazing exhibit.

    Juli- It was hard to believe they were made out of pipe cleaners, as were the amazing pieces made from colored strings.

    Janie- Cool. Whatever Lola want ...

    Karla- A lot of the Ishigo drawings are amazing, but that one especially tugged at my heartstrings.

    Tonja- Thank you for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Ian- It's reassuring to know that the human spirit can prevail under such difficult circumstances, isn't it?

  27. What a moving example of the endurance of the human spirit. Thank you for posting this.

  28. A beautiful post. The soul can never be squelched, even through one of America's most shameful blunders. I constantly read history but one has to "dig" for the real stuff. Now, the world is more realistic and historians are publishing truth.

  29. Kara- Glad you liked it. Thank you.

    Manzie- I hope you're right about today's historians publishing truth. With every country wanting to spin a positive image on their roles in the world, I have some concern that blunders in recent history may be swept under the rug, too.

    Mr. C- Thank you, dear sir.

  30. I'm glad something beautiful came from such an awful period and that you were able to see it. And in regards to yest. post, even if the possibility existed that someone among those Japanese people might've been a 'subversive', imprisoning them (or anyone)without a trial is still unconstitutional and just plain wrong in my opinion.

    And I agree with some of the others, it could all easily happen again.

  31. Marcy- Terrific point. Scary how the constitution takes a back seat when fear is driving the bus.

  32. Wow. Awesome and moving. What a fabulous post about a part of our history that is too easy for some to want to sweep under the rug. But it is vitally important to recognize and remember so it never happens again.

    What an inspiration about the ability of the human spirit to create moving art in even some of the worst situations.

    Great post, Susan!

  33. Chris- Thank you, dear sir. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  34. What a stunning place, I'm glad I made my way over.

    This is a special post in capturing the whole of the human spirit. And the idea of light existing through darkness. Thank you for sharing. The quote by Carl Jung is a favorite of mine.

    Thank you for taking your time in my space and following. :0

  35. Excellent and moving post. I don't seem to have much to add after all the wonderful comments, but I very much connected with this. Lovely writing!

  36. Archna- Thank you for stopping by. I do appreciate it, and am glad this post and the Jung quote resonated with you.

    Maggie- Thank you, and welcome aboard!

  37. Hey,

    Thanks for giving me the heads up about these posts... absolutely fascinating... wow... it must have been amazing and God bless Estelle for standing by her man.... wow.

    (You should "reprint" these every year to remind us...:)

    1. I'm glad you were able to stop by to read them. In light of the post you wrote about your elderly neighbor voting before he died, I thought you might appreciate these.