Friday, January 25, 2013

The Past in My Hands

My studio days are full of interest as I help a friend with a mounting and framing project. She is the custodian of memorabilia belonging to one of the American soldiers who was on Okinawa in 1946. The collection of personal objects, military medals, and photographs fairly hums with voices from the past.

I lived on Okinawa in the late 1960's when the Ryukyu Islands were still under United States military command, and it is compelling to see the same regalia on the dancers, the same landscape, and the same tomb entrances we sought out, interested in the island's culture, decades after the battle for Okinawa.

How different the perspective of this young G.I. who notes on the back of one photograph that these are the people he was fighting against only weeks before. In the collection is a Japanese flag, the Rising Sun hand-stitched on a tan field that is, most curiously, painted with an image of Mount Fuji, a torii, and the words "Okinawa." What can be the story of this remarkable piece of cloth?

Handling these objects and helping to preserve them is a moving experience, resonating with vivid history and private lives. It is just the kind of thing that makes a studio life so rich.

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