Author Yamashita Among Recipients of USA Fellowships


United States Artists has announced the 2011 USA Fellows — 50 artists who will receive individual fellowship awards of $50,000 each.

An awards ceremony was held Monday at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, hosted by actor/director Tim Robbins.

Recipients include:

Karen Tei Yamashita (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto)

• Karen Tei Yamashita of Santa Cruz, a USA Ford Fellow in literature. She has published four novels and one collection of short stories, as well as non-fiction. Her intensely researched novels reflect her interests in communities whose stories often go untold, such as Japanese Brazilian history in “Brazil-Maru” (1992) and a fictional history of the Asian American movement in “I Hotel” (2010), which won several awards and was as a finalist for the National Book Award.

Her work has received several honors, including an American Book Award for “Through the Arc of the Rain Forest” (1990). She is also the author of “Tropic of Orange” (1997) and “Circle K Cycles” (2001). The latter book is about Japanese Brazilians who move to Japan to find work. In addition, Yamashita has written plays for East West Players in Los Angeles.

A native of Oakland, Yamashita is a professor of literature and co-director of the Creative Writing Program at UC Santa Cruz. She has lived in Gardena and spent nine years in Brazil. Her grandparents founded Uoki Sakai, a century-old fish market in San Francisco’s Japantown.

“I am so honored and blessed,” Yamashita told the Rafu Shimpo. “It’s short of a small miracle. I’m hoping that I can use the funds for time off teaching next year to research and write on my new project, the Japanese American internment and a large archive of my family Yamashita correspondence that spans those war years and the dispersal of the family across the country.”

Akio Takamori and one of his creations. (Courtesy of Henry Art Gallery, Seattle)

• Akio Takamori of Seattle, a USA Ford Fellow in crafts and traditional arts. He is a ceramist who produces hand-painted figurative works. After studying ceramics in Japan, Takamori moved to the U.S. in 1974 to attend the Kansas City Art Institute and Alfred University in New York. His earliest works were figures in vessel forms.

During a 1996 residency in the Netherlands, Takamori began emphasizing the space between works by grouping larger figures in sculptural installations, a transition that would mark his future direction. His subjects include rural Japanese villagers from his childhood, historical and art historical characters, and contemporary people, at times accompanied by drawings. He is professor of art and ceramics at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Roger Shimomura at an exhibition of his works in New York. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

• Roger Shimomura of Lawrence, Kan., a USA Ford Fellow in visual arts. As a painter and theater artist, he addresses socio-political issues of ethnicity in his work. Shimomura spent two early years in Minidoka, Idaho, in a concentration camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. This experience and the 56-year diaries of his immigrant grandmother have influenced his investigations into Asian American stereotypes, which he confronts in his paintings.

He began teaching at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, in 1969 and retired in 2004, when he started the Shimomura Faculty Research Support Fund, an endowment to foster faculty research in the Department of Art. His works are featured in the books “The Prints of Roger Shimomura: A Catalogue Raisonne, 1968-2005” (Jacob Lawrence Series on American Artists) and “Minidoka Revisited: The Paintings of Roger Shimomura.”

USA is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to investing in America’s finest artists and to illuminating the value of artists to society. Through the USA Fellows program, $15 million has been awarded directly to outstanding artists across the country. Its newest program, USA Projects, is an online community where anyone can discover original projects from today’s most innovative artists and make tax-deductible donations to support that work.

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