Mine Okubo

Theme/Style – Modernism, Social Realism, Abstraction

Media – Oils, watercolors, drawings

Artistic Focus – A Southern California native, Mine Okubo received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the mid-1930s from the University of California, Berkeley, then left for Europe on a traveling art scholarship. When war broke out, she escaped on the last ship to leave Bordeaux, France. After painting several murals on commission for the Federal Art Project between 1939 and 1942, Okubo was sent to a Japanese internment camp in Utah. She spent the rest of the war there, teaching art classes, editing a literary magazine, and creating “painfully hard-edged representations of community life in the Utah internment camp.”

Career Highlights –

• Okubo wrote and illustrated Citizen 13660, a book about her camp experiences, and eventually transformed her anger into positive expressions in what she called her “Happy Paintings” period in the 1960s.
• Through the years, her art moved from its initial “hopeful and naïve” period into her wartime use of tighter lines and a stark black-and-white palette, then back into works described as “instinctive expressions of sheer joy…exalted affirmations of man’s ‘animal soul’ and primitive nature over today's mechanized and routinized existence.”
• The politics of World War II transformed her, both personally and artistically. As one writer said of her, “Confronted with the crisis of identity thrust upon her by the Evacuation, she was suddenly forced to face the truth and the consequences of being a nisei in America. Her emerging consciousness as a Japanese-American contributed in the end to make her a richer, far more creative and resourceful artist.”