The Art of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani
Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani is a fiercely independent, 90-year-old Japanese American artist who has survived the traumas of war and homelessness by creating art every day. The Japanese Canadian National Museum is presenting this remarkable exhibition about his art and life—a poignant exploration of the lasting impacts of discrimination, and the healing power of creativity.
Originally born in Sacramento in 1920, Jimmy Mirikitani was raised in Hiroshima, where he quickly showed a talent for painting. He returned to the US in 1938 to pursue his art, but ended up in the Tule Lake internment camp during the war, where he lost his US citizenship. After moving to New York, he tried to revive his art career, and later trained as a cook. When his employer died in the late 1980s, Jimmy suddenly became homeless. He lived on the streets of New York for over ten years, selling his art to survive. Jimmy lived in Soho, very close to the World Trade Towers and was severely affected by 9/11. In 2001, he met film-maker Linda Hattendorf, who produced and directed the award winning documentary The Cats of Mirikitani (www.thecatsofmirikitani.com). She helped him get off the street and since 2002, Jimmy has lived in an assisted-living retirement centre in New York.
Through his art, Jimmy brings to life his dramatic personal history, both past and present. His mixed media work reflects on childhood picnics in Hiroshima, his links to ancient samurai ancestors, the bombing of Pearl Harbor and his memories of incarceration in the bleak internment camp at Tule Lake. Two major disasters also closely affected him: he paints the angry red flames of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima that claimed the lives of his mother’s family and the dramatic attacks on the World Trade Center, perilously close to his street home. In contrast, Jimmy Mirikitani has a lifelong love of cats and is probably best known for his whimsical paintings of cats, tigers, flowers, fruits and the beauty of nature.
The exhibit was curated by Roger Shimomura and produced by The Wing Luke Asian Museum. Created in association with The Cats of Mirikitani, produced by Linda Hattendorf and Masa Yoshikawa.
The award-winning film The Cats of Mirikitani is on view in the gallery. The museum will also present special screenings on February 3 at 7pm and February 26 and March 26 at 2pm. Weekly tours of the exhibit are also offered. Check www.jcnm.ca for further details.
The Japanese Canadian National Museum is located within the National Nikkei Museum & Heritage Centre at 6688 Southoaks Crescent in Burnaby. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 5pm. For further information 604.777.7000 or www.jcnm.ca. The Art of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani continues until March 26, 2011.