Roger Shimomura Interview Segment 1

Born in Seattle, Washington, delivered by midwife grandmother (ddr-densho-1000-142-1) - 00:02:23
Family background: grandmother a nurse in Japan (ddr-densho-1000-142-2) - 00:08:02
Grandmother's arrival in U.S. as a "picture bride" (ddr-densho-1000-142-3) - 00:04:20
Mother's family background (ddr-densho-1000-142-4) - 00:04:18
Parents' early relationship and marriage (ddr-densho-1000-142-5) - 00:04:14
Two years old when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, hearing accounts from father, grandmother (ddr-densho-1000-142-6) - 00:02:59
Childhood memories of the Puyallup Assembly Center and Minidoka concentration camp: celebrating third birthday, contracting measles, "getting into a lot of mischief" (ddr-densho-1000-142-7) - 00:08:20
Leaving camp and attending grade school in Chicago, recalling death of younger sister (ddr-densho-1000-142-8) - 00:06:56
Ethnic identity in elementary school: playing "Kill the Jap" game with neighborhood children (ddr-densho-1000-142-9) - 00:08:46
Witnessing parents' experience with racism on a family vacation to Cannon Beach, Oregon (ddr-densho-1000-142-10) - 00:04:47
Memories of continuing elementary school in Seattle, Washington: learning to fight, early interest in collecting (ddr-densho-1000-142-11) - 00:09:41
Developing interest in drawing in elementary school; depicting issues of ethnic identity through early art (ddr-densho-1000-142-12) - 00:04:20
Drawing as a way of releasing frustration about lack of material items as a child; influence of uncles on ideas about art (ddr-densho-1000-142-13) - 00:05:56
Attending Garfield High School in Seattle: getting in fights, continuation of artistic development (ddr-densho-1000-142-14) - 00:09:08
Parents' and grandparents' values: disagreements about interracial dating (ddr-densho-1000-142-15) - 00:06:48
Japanese American community activities; church socials, athletics, dances (ddr-densho-1000-142-16) - 00:03:32
Rocky relationship with father: asking about the camps, receiving a negative reaction (ddr-densho-1000-142-17) - 00:04:51
Summer jobs while attending the University of Washington: helping to install the Japanese garden in the Arboretum, doing gardening for Caucasian classmates' families (ddr-densho-1000-142-18) - 00:07:19
Little awareness of political events of the late 1950's; discussion of the "model minority" stereotype (ddr-densho-1000-142-19) - 00:05:26
Questioning career path at the University of Washington (ddr-densho-1000-142-20) - 00:03:29
Taking part in ROTC at the University of Washington; talked into completing program by a Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran (ddr-densho-1000-142-21) - 00:08:50
Becoming a Distinguished Military Graduate; confronted with racial issues in the Greek system at the University of Washington (ddr-densho-1000-142-22) - 00:08:02
Experiencing basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, sent overseas to Korea (ddr-densho-1000-142-23) - 00:08:03
Dealing with racism within army unit in Korea; fighting, drinking, competition (ddr-densho-1000-142-24) - 00:07:05
(ddr-densho-1000-142-25) - 00:05:32
Rotating back to the U.S., organizing the ceremonies at Fort Lewis, Washington after President John F. Kennedy's assassination (ddr-densho-1000-142-26) - 00:07:30
(ddr-densho-1000-142-27) - 00:02:00
Dissatisfaction working as a freelance graphic designer (ddr-densho-1000-142-28) - 00:08:36
Moving away from commercial art, enrolling in painting courses at the University of Washington (ddr-densho-1000-142-29) - 00:05:38
Acceptance into graduate study in painting at UW; getting married (ddr-densho-1000-142-30) - 00:06:59
Shift in political views, social awareness; disagreement with father over career choice (ddr-densho-1000-142-31) - 00:03:34
Influence of UW art professors on painting style, mentored by Frank Okada (ddr-densho-1000-142-32) - 00:09:39
Renting Frank Okada's art studio for one year: painting, parties and jazz (ddr-densho-1000-142-33) - 00:07:57
Memories of Japanese American artist Paul Horiuchi (ddr-densho-1000-142-34) - 00:08:27
Accepted to art program at Syracuse University, attending a summer session at Stanford University (ddr-densho-1000-142-35) - 00:04:16
Fond memories of attending Syracuse University; discussion of cultural differences between the East and West coasts (ddr-densho-1000-142-36) - 00:04:54
Becoming involved in the pop art movement; successfully pulling off a hoax regarding Andy Warhol for final presentation (ddr-densho-1000-142-37) - 00:10:44
Influence of the Democratic National Convention of 1968 on political identity (ddr-densho-1000-142-38) - 00:03:52
Applying for teaching jobs at various universities; an unpleasant interview at Williams College (ddr-densho-1000-142-39) - 00:04:26
Experiencing discrimination at a job interview for Murray State University, Kentucky (ddr-densho-1000-142-40) - 00:03:41
Accepting a teaching position at Kansas University (ddr-densho-1000-142-41) - 00:03:45
Taking a road trip around the perimeter of the United States; racial experiences in South Carolina (ddr-densho-1000-142-42) - 00:09:46
Conclusion of road trip around the country before moving to Lawrence, Kansas (ddr-densho-1000-142-43) - 00:04:03
First year teaching at Kansas University, experiencing tremendous political upheaval (ddr-densho-1000-142-44) - 00:08:17
Awareness of changing political views, identity (ddr-densho-1000-142-45) - 00:03:18
Ethnic composition of the University of Kansas (ddr-densho-1000-142-46) - 00:04:02
Racial incidents involving Native Americans in Kansas (ddr-densho-1000-142-47) - 00:03:58
A "bothersome" conversation with a farmer in Kansas directly influences painting, becomes inspiration for "Oriental Masterpiece" (ddr-densho-1000-142-48) - 00:05:02
Having excerpts of grandmother's diary entries translated; painting series "Minidoka" (ddr-densho-1000-142-49) - 00:08:03
Discussion of several of the paintings in the "Minidoka" series (ddr-densho-1000-142-50) - 00:03:47
Response of people in Japan to "Minidoka" painting series (ddr-densho-1000-142-51) - 00:06:04
Creating a traveling exhibit of paintings based on grandmother's translated diary entries (ddr-densho-1000-142-52) - 00:04:24
Personal reactions to reading grandmother's diaries; others' interest in the entries (ddr-densho-1000-142-53) - 00:07:03
Becoming involved in performance art; creation of piece "7 Kabuki Plays Project" (ddr-densho-1000-142-54) - 00:09:08
Discussion of creation of other performance art pieces, public's reaction to the sometimes controversial themes (ddr-densho-1000-142-55) - 00:05:23
Changes in art curriculum at University of Kansas; involvement of women and people of color in performance art (ddr-densho-1000-142-56) - 00:06:55
Description of performance piece "The Last Sansei Story" (ddr-densho-1000-142-57) - 00:08:57
Painting William Burroughs for series "Return of the Yellow Peril" (ddr-densho-1000-142-58) - 00:05:27
Commissioned to paint a mural for the Westlake Mall bus station in Seattle (ddr-densho-1000-142-59) - 00:04:49
Experiences collecting: re-emergence of an old painting (ddr-densho-1000-142-60) - 00:05:06
Collecting artifacts depicting racial stereotypes: influence on art (ddr-densho-1000-142-61) - 00:06:23
Receiving a grant from the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund to create and exhibit series "An American Diary," based on grandmother's diary entries (ddr-densho-1000-142-62) - 00:09:11
Public's response to "An American Diary" (ddr-densho-1000-142-63) - 00:06:30
Painting series "Memories of Childhood," based on first ten memories of life (ddr-densho-1000-142-64) - 00:02:29
Observing racial issues among students at the University of Kansas, creating series "Stereotypes & Admonitions" (ddr-densho-1000-142-65) - 00:07:26
Description of second wife, involved in performance art (ddr-densho-1000-142-66) - 00:03:03
Thoughts on current events, description of keynote address given at the College Art Association in 2003 (ddr-densho-1000-142-67) - 00:06:53
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ddr-densho-1000-142-1 (Legacy UID: denshovh-sroger-01-0001)

Born in Seattle, Washington, delivered by midwife grandmother

00:02:23 — Segment 1 of 67

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March 18 & 20, 2003

Densho Visual History Collection


Courtesy of Densho


Roger Shimomura

Roger Shimomura Interview

06:44:32 — 67 segments

March 18 & 20, 2003

Seattle, Washington

Roger Shimomura's paintings, prints, and theater pieces address sociopolitical issues of Asian America. The inspiration for many of his works are the diaries kept by his late immigrant grandmother for fifty-six years. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, and his graduate degree from Syracuse University, New York.

Shimomura has had more than 100 solo exhibitions of his paintings and prints, and has presented his experimental theater pieces at such venues as the Franklin Furnace, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. He is the recipient of four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in painting and performance art, a McKnight Fellowship, and a Civil Liberties Public Education Fund Fellowship. He was the first artist to be awarded an international Japan Foundation Grant, as well as the first in the state to receive the Kansas Arts Commission Artist Fellowship in Painting.

In fall 1990, Shimomura was appointed the Dayton Hudson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. Professor Shimomura has lectured on his work at more than 160 universities and art museums across the United States. In 1994 he was designated a University Distinguished Professor on the University of Kansas faculty, the first so honored in the history of the School of Fine Arts at that campus. In 1998, he received the Higuchi Research Prize, the highest annual honor bestowed on a Kansas University faculty member in the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 1999, the Seattle Urban League named a scholarship for him that is awarded annually to a Seattle resident pursuing a career in art. The College Art Association presented him with the Artist Award for Most Distinguished Body of Work for 2001, in recognition of his four-year, twelve-museum national tour of the painting exhibition An American Diary.

Shimomura's personal papers are being collected by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. He is represented by Jeffrey Hoffeld & Company, Inc., New York; Jan Cicero Gallery, Chicago; Jan Weiner Gallery, Kansas City; Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, Miami; and Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle.

Alice Ito, interviewer; Mayumi Tsutakawa, interviewer; Dana Hoshide, videographer


Courtesy of Densho