Yellow Bowl Project shows true American history

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The Freedom from Fear/Yellow Bowl Project created by local artist Setsuko Winchester was put on display at MCLA’s Gallery 51 and opened last Thursday at 5 p.m. to the public.

The Freedom from Fear/Yellow Bowl Project consists of 120 yellow tea bowls made and photographed by Winchester at each of the Japanese-American internment camps. The 120 bowls represent 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were forcibly removed to 10 internment camps during World War II. Winchester couldn’t help but see the parallels between this and the current immigration bans, providing the inspiration for her project.

“It’s a very special exhibit about a very shameful time in our lives,” said Rose Marie Thomas, a North Adams native who works at Gallery 51.

Thomas’ favorite piece at the exhibit was one of the photographs featuring the yellow tea bowls at Gila River, AZ. In the photo the bowls were placed in a semicircle on a concrete slab in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, which alludes to the out of sight, out of mind attitude people had toward Japanese-Americans at the time.

“The way they have the bowls, beautiful,” Thomas said quietly staring at the piece, almost mesmerized by it, when asked why it was her favorite.

The exhibit had a handful of pedestals holding examples of the yellow tea bowls running along the middle of the room with the photographs of the bowls at actual encampments lining the walls.

Senior Drew Weisse, a history major, works every first Thursday of the month at Gallery 51 and happened to be working the information desk during the exhibition.  He explained how the piece was supposed to act as a warning and a thought piece for what may happen to people, especially those of Latin-American descent, with these new immigration laws in our current political climate.

Weisse’s favorite piece was the photograph of the guard tower from Manzanar, CA. It had the yellow tea bowls stretched out far in front of it and the viewer can see a barbed wire fence running along the side creating an ominous feeling of the bowls, which represent the incarcerated Japanese-Americans, being trapped.

“I wonder what it was like to be there,” said senior Oliver Locke, pausing for a moment when talking about his favorite piece at the show.

His favorite was a photograph from Amache, CO, which had a brick building and two towers standing in the background with the yellow tea bowls cluttered in the browning grass foreground as if there wasn’t enough room for them all.

“I like that it’s real,” Locke said, which seemed to be the opinion of many people attending the exhibition. It’s one thing to know Japanese-Americans were put in internment camps, but it’s another thing to see photos of those camps and be faced with our country’s shameful past.

The Freedom From Fear/Yellow Bowl Project will continue to be on view at Gallery 51 until Nov. 19.