04 July, 2012

Barbara Horiuchi: A Rage Against Injustice

In our household, the stories that dotted my youth were told in hushed tones with a hint of fear, and a whole lot of anger.
Sometimes, I could hear the tears falling.

So I asked a whole lot of questions.

My family were incarcerated in US concentration camps during WWII. Their crime? They were American citizens of Japanese ancestry.

My artwork is rooted in a desire to unearth historical injustices and subsequent wounds victims may have experienced in the last century from exclusionary acts, immigration laws, marginalization, discrimination, prejudice, and loss. My work represents my own social conscience and an act of resistance against continued intolerance. The manner in which my work is conceived, constructed and created is a reflection of this resistance and a rage against injustice.

"Subjugated No. 7" Barbara Horiuchi,
Sumi Ink on Aluminum, 2012
"Subjugated No. 12" Barbara Horiuchi,
Sumi Ink on Aluminum, 2012

Recent pictorial work on aluminum was made with sumi ink applied to the metal with a heavy chain. The forceful, violent manner of striking the metal with the chain leaves a mark—evidence of the action and indentation/scar on the metal from the act. Traumatic experiences ranging from a loss of one’s civil rights to acts of violence against others based on their ethnicity, orientation, or differing points of view can leave a mark on those who experienced or are witness to them.

"Subjugated No. 12" [detail], Barbara Horiuchi, Sumi Ink on Aluminum, 2012

My current project to be included in the USSSA exhibition, ‘I Am...’ was initiated by a photograph I saw after the recent murder of Trayvon Martin. In the photograph, a young man carried the sign ‘I Am Trayvon Martin.’ I plan to conceptually reflect the message of that sign: What happened to young Trayvon could happen to most anyone.
His murder made me think of the poem by Langston Hughes, ‘Birmingham Sunday (September 15th, 1963)’ referencing the death of four young girls in 1963.

Four little girls
Who went to Sunday School that day
And never came back home at all--

In 1963, four young girls were killed in a racially motivated bombing by the Ku Klux Klan at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Their ages ranged from 11-14 years old. This homegrown terrorist hate-crime was one of the last straws which helped spur President Kennedy to propose the Civil Rights Act, which passed in 1964.

Thousands of murders motivated by hate occurred before the American Civil Rights Act of 1964 and continue to occur in our Land of the Free. In 2012, hatred and racism still kills innocent victims, spawns fear, and collectively traumatizes.

Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Raymond Yellow Thunder, Harvey Milk, Vincent Chin, Brandon Teena, James Byrd, Matthew Shepard, Arthur J.R. Warren, Ali Almansoop, Gwen Araujo, Raul & Brisenia Flores, James Craig Anderson, Trayvon Martin....

The battle continues...

Four little girls
Might be awakened someday soon
By songs upon the breeze
     As yet unfelt among
     Magnolia trees.

"Everything that we inscribe in the living present of our relation to others already carries, always, the signature of the memories from beyond the grave."
-Jacques Derrida

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