untitled (vase)
Circa 1943
11 in HIGH x 13 in WIDE x 12 in DEEP
(27.94 cm HIGH x 33.02 cm WIDE x 30.48 cm DEEP)
Gift of Yuri Kodani

Made from desert wood at Topaz Internment Camp (probably Juniper).  The artist recalls:  "in the wood pile there were beautiful pieces of dead wood.  Papa [Chirua Obata] and I wanted one, and they said, sure, you can take it, and they cut off a piece where I made the marks.  At first I thought of making a lamp stand, but it was so nice I wanted to use it for Ikebana.  We tied a big nail to a stick and hammered out the inside, little by little.  It was too much work for me, so Papa had to help.  Every night it was a big job.  I remembered when I was young my grandmother crushed walnuts and tied them in an old cloth.  Someone had sent us a box of walnuts so I used them to polish the vase--it looked so nice.  I still use it for Ikebana."  
From the History Information Station:
Object:  Wooden vase made from a cypress tree, by Chiura Obata at Topaz, Utah.
History:  Chiura Obata (1885-1975) was born in Japan where, beginning at age 7, he studied with 3 of the greatest masters of classical Japanese painting.  He immigrated to San Francisco in 1903, bringing the ancient Japanese art of brush painting, Sumi-e, to the Bay Area.  He was appointed to the faculty of University of California, Berkeley, in 1932.  He was interned in Topaz from 1942 to 1945, where he organized art schools and exhibitions, and produced more than 500 paintings.  After his release, he returned to the University of California faculty, retiring from teaching in 1954 with the honor of Emeritus.
     Topaz was one of ten permanent detention camps which interned 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.  11,212 Japanese Americans from the San Francisco Bay Area were interned at Topaz.
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