By DR. DONALD HATA
The month of May is designated as Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month. As part of the festivities, an exhibit of Hatsuko Mary Higuchi’s award-winning paintings is at El Camino College’s Schauerman Library during the month of May 2014.
Hatsuko Mary Higuchi was born in Los Angeles in 1939. On Feb. 19, 1942, shortly after the beginning of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the mass removal and imprisonment of all Nikkei (Japanese Americans) on the West Coast.
We now know that this tragic chapter in U.S. history was totally unfounded, and caused instead by war hysteria, racism and greed, and a lack of political leadership. Mary’s family was incarcerated in the U.S. War Relocation Authority’s Colorado River concentration camp at Poston, Ariz., from 1942 until the war’s end in 1945. Her father died in 1951, after purchasing a 10-acre farm, leaving her mother to raise four small children and work the land alone.
Mary earned a teaching credential from UCLA, an MA from Pepperdine University, and taught as an elementary school master teacher from 1962 until retirement in 2003. Her life changed in 1989 when she met luminary artist Henry Fukuhara, whose mentoring and support launched her career as an artist. In 1998, Mary was among the founding group of plein-air artists who joined Henry’s annual Manzanar Paint Outs.
Mary Higuchi paints a variety of themes such as landscapes, figures, and abstracts. She uses watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, collage, and calligraphy. Her “EO 9066” series depict faces with anonymous features or none at all, symbolizing the mass anonymity to which 120,000 Nikkei, most of them U.S. citizens, were reduced … denied basic constitutional rights such as due process and judged guilty solely by their race.
Mary Higuchi’s haunting portraits are a warning that what happened to Nikkei in World War II is a precedent for similar actions against other groups, even today. In December 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Defense Appropriations bill, which includes an ominous provision for imprisoning citizens and aliens in “indefinite detention” on “suspicion” of treason or sedition.
Schauerman Library is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday; and closed on Monday and Tuesday, May 19-20. El Camino College is at 16007 Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance. Phone: (310) 660-3519. Campus parking is $3; tickets available at kiosks located in all campus parking lots. Suggested parking lots are H and L. Campus escort service is available at sites with flashing blue lights.
There will be a reception, with light refreshments, in the Schauerman Library on Wednesday, May 21, from 4 to 6 p.m. Admission is free, and the exhibit and reception are open to the public.
See Mary Higuchi’s blogspot for her full portfolio of award-winning paintings at http://maryhiguchiarts.blogspot.com. Copies of Mary’s paintings and prints will be available for purchase at the reception.