Saturday, July 07, 2012

Judy Shintani Chimes in at COCA's Heaven and Earth

Judy Shintani at Kubota Gardens
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in June artist Judy Shintani from Half Moon Bay, California, arrived in Seattle. 
Beside hostess gifts, and the usual, her luggage contained a drill, gold markers, twine, bells, clean oyster shells.

The next day she discovered all other artists participating in COCA Seattle's landscape exhibition Heaven and Earth at Carkeek Park had taken their pick. The best spots in this most northern Seattle city park were taken, or so it seemed. The only place left for Judy's installation was an isolated spot on the eastern side of a barbed wire fence separating the park's grassy mole and woods from railroad tracks and beach.

That evening Shintani, two relatives, and five friends joined forces around a tall table at Chinook's Pub at the Fishermen's Terminal to slurp dressed oysters on the half shell. The cheerful bunch stayed past closing time, yet did not outlast their welcome. And Judy left with a to-go-box filled with her party's share of half shells. The only way she could come by shells for her artwork, was to "empty them" herself; to invite others, share food, drink, stories and laughter was part of her project.

On Thursday Shintani scrubbed the rough shells and drilled holes in mother of pearl at the COCA gallery in Georgetown. Dressed in borrowed rain gear she installed her Ancestor Chimes at the designated spot in Carkeek Park. Treated for once to the —most times mythical— Seattle rain, she held her stand on uneven ground, possibly feeling closer to her family's past than ever.

Ancestor Chimes
As it turned out, that last remaining spot on the COCA Heaven and Earth list of locations —the leftover area, separated from railroad track and Puget Sound by barbed wire— couldn't have been chosen better if it had been on purpose. Isolated outpost, separated from the shore by barbed wire, all elements that enhance Shintani's intention.

Bainbridge Island and the Olympics form the perfect backdrop to Shintani's artwork. The Sound and peninsula coast a poignant reminder of oyster farms abandoned during WWII when Japanese Americans were forced to leave for internment camps, and their Olympics but a memory of home.

Through 10/31 Judy Shintani's Ancestor Chimes will resonate across Puget Sound, reaching, if only in our minds, the Japanese American Memorial site on Bainbridge Island.

This work by Judith van Praag is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
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