More than just a name, "Miyoko" in Japanese means “beautiful generation”. The art I create is a reflection of my generation, a generation who in our formative years grew up with the explosion of the civil rights, free speech and anti-war movements. As young adults we took the civil rights movement to our own communities to demand rights to relevant education, (Ethnic Studies), equality in the workplace, to end the Vietnam war, and to protest the destruction of our communities through gentrification, coming to terms with what it means to be a person of color in America. Political rhetoric aside, one current that kept our spirits strong was developing pride in our cultural heritage.
My art is dedicated to my mother, who taught me to see beauty in life and the world, and my father, who gave me the ability to create it.
Before the turn of the 19th century, my grandfather left Japan and traveled to Vancouver, Canada. With $40 saved from salmon fishing he moved to San Francisco, California in the early 1900’s. He survived the Great Earthquake of 1906 but promptly moved across the bay to Oakland.
My father was born in Oakland. He was Kibei (born in America, raised in Japan). When he was a baby he was brought to Japan and raised. He came back to California when he was sixteen where he graduated from Berkeley High School. He was an extremely talented artist with the gift of being able to create beauty in everything he did. He was starting a career in oil painting when WWII was declared. All persons of Japanese ancestry on the West coast were interned in relocation camps and his career as an artist was abruptly terminated. However, when he was taken to the camps he drew sketches of the train ride to Topaz, Utah and painted watercolors of life in the relocation camp (internees could not have cameras). During their incarceration he painted street signs and murals with symbols of resistance to hardship, the Sho Chiku Bai (pine tree, bamboo and plum blossoms) and the symbols of long life, Tsuru & Kame (crane and tortoise) to help lift the internees spirit and make the place more hospitable. Once he was out of camp he had to work many jobs to rebuild the life of his family.
As far as I can remember he was always too busy working to sit down and paint. He worked day and night, sometimes two jobs. But even through the dry cleaning business his artistic creativity came through – he named the business “The Artistic Cleaners” and hung his paintings up around the building. Later he started a career in landscaping where one could see his artistic talent in many beautifully landscaped gardens around the Bay Area. Through his work you could see his understanding of Japanese culture and the intense strength and pride he had in himself. Another evidence of his eye for beauty was my Mom.
My mother was Nisei (second generation born in America). She was born and raised in Oakland. She had a unique talent of her own. She had the ability to see the beauty of life, always making you see the best in things and making what you have seem like the best. And although I will always remember her constantly working, at the cleaners and raising five children, her strength came through the fact the she maintained an outlook of kindness, gentleness and grace despite devastating experiences like the relocation camps.
My parents fought extreme racism and oppression and worked to make better lives for my brothers, sister and me. The pride they had in themselves was so strong it influenced and inspired me to take pride in myself. If ever it is said that children are most like their parents, I wish it to be true for me. I hope you can see it in my art.