Japanese American artist

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Yasuo Kuniyoshi

Introduction

Art is a special way of conveying ideas, emotions, feelings and messages by using little or no words. It may, however, entail the usage of words, yet in an unusual or unconventional way, or in a modern conceptualized way. Factors such as the culture, the nation of origin, the kind of upbringing, the relations with the environment, among many others, may have a significant influence on the works of the artist (Forresta 2015). In the United States of America, there have been many artists of different cultural backgrounds who have infused their artistry into the culture of the nation. Yasuo Kuniyoshi, an American Japanese artist, is an example of an artist whose cultural background significantly influenced his artworks. This paper will discuss the legacy of Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and how his life and philosophy influenced his works.

 

Being a Japanese citizen, Yasuo Kuniyoshi was a resident alien in the United States. He was born in the 1889 in Japan, and emigrated to the United States in 1906, at the age of sixteen. He had no consideration of staying in the United States, neither had he any intention of becoming an artist. However, this changed when he joined the New York independent school and the students art league. Upon this, his life and stay remained glued to the American soil, and his artistry developed immensely, with a tinge of innovativeness and incorporation of both American and Japanese values into his paintings and drawings. His influence in the art ran for more than twenty years, and his artworks are still appreciated today. According to Tim Wolf, an expert in Kuniyoshis work from Bard College, the artworks of Kuniyoshi reflected in detail his philosophy as well as his personal lifestyle (Forresta 2015).

The artist appeals to me when he demonstrates the issues that are emotionally touching. Referring to the real-life issues in his artworks, as opposed to using abstract ideas that Americans are out of touch with, was among the core tools that Kuniyoshi utilized in the propagandist years during the World War II. In his works, he managed to provide an explicit representation of war and its effects. For example, in his poster Torture he depicted the way prisoners were tortured in the course of the war. He also raised such issues as the experiences of rape of women and the violence that children faced in the war. In yet another artwork Deliver Us From Evil, Kuniyoshi demonstrated how the war had become the cause of suffering for some people in the name of the victory of other people. The artwork depicts a woman who is lying face down, a bayonet is thrust on her side, and a dead child lying beside her. The bayonet has a Japanese flag attached to the tip. The work has a strong emotional appeal to consider the effects of the war. Furthermore, it shows how inhuman it is when it gets to a point where people are celebrating the fall of the others. Kuniyoshis art is not about World War II only; his themes and messages can be applied to the current trends as well, where there many issues emerge that can be considered as crimes against humanity. Gene Thornton, while writing about Kuniyoshi, states that it was damning to realize the kind of pain and torture Kuniyoshi underwent and depicted about his people. In another work, he portrays oversized children who are being carried by mothers, who appear to be down trodden and exhausted. This draws a feeling of pity for them since they appear overwhelmed and defeated. It is emotionally draining and able to evoke an emotional realization of the tortures that victims, not only of the Japanese war but also of the tortures in general. The depictions he uses can however be scary because of the specific ways the elements of the artwork have been combined. The art ends up being unusually emotionally draining. Thus, the artist has appealed to me by his ability to address the issues that are still of relevance today.

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Aesthetically, the works of Kuniyoshi appeal to the viewer due to the use of both American and Japanese cultural values and artifacts, which results in a unique blend. Hence, he is able to accommodate both cultures. Additionally, the ability of the artist to combine both paintings and drawings in exemplarily complementing measures is another reason to applaud his style of art. In Kuniyoshis works, different elements are well arranged to blend, and the disproportionate use of structures in relation to others is attractive. All of the above features are appealing to my aesthetic feelings.

Kuniyoshi also demonstrates a unique philosophy of his art and life. It was particularly during the war and the post-war time that he articulated clearly his attitude towards war in both his art and his speeches. It was despite his expression of his opposition to fascism and unreservedly condemning the attack on the port that he indeed inspired and encouraged other Asian immigrants to be supportive and embrace the American culture (Wang 135). His philosophy seemed to have been the one that prompted him to declare America as his home. Regardless of this, his art ended up becoming more popular in Japan than in the United States, where he spent most of his life. One of the reasons why the art got neglected was the negative attitude of Americans towards Asians in general, and the Japanese in particular, who were considered to be the enemies of the United States. However, Kuniyoshis belief was that peace and coexistence were paramount to human beings. It is for this reason that we see him engage in anti-war activities. His willingness and volunteering to speak to Japanese people via the national radio broadcast indicated a dedication to build up a sense of belonging and co-existence alongside their American brothers (Wang 140). He also depicted the ugly side of fascism and other segregation tendencies. For example, he would draw a caricature of Hirohito, a Japanese emperor, where he depicted him together with the dictators Mussolini and Hitler. It was a clear indication of his anti-racism and anti-fascism stance. He was of the opinion that it is not necessary to engage in a war as a way of solving issues. Military solutions did not seem to exist to him. Most of his artworks, where he portrayed antiwar statues, were the means of expressing this personal belief in antimilitarism.

Kuniyoshis depictive artworks of women, still lives and landscapes depicted his ideas about the worlds way of life as it should be. He progressed from different depictive artworks that showed joy and gaiety, for example, to thematic artworks that conveyed melancholy and sorrow during the wartime. Such a shift was an indication of changes in his views before and after the war (Levin 13).

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The other key point in Kuniyoshis philosophy that was evident throughout his life was his desire for all the people of all descends, including the Japanese and the Americans, to interrelate. One point that he once made clear is the fact that Japanese ought not to live in their cocoons but rather aspire to live with others freely and mutually. His love and appreciation of the culture of both the East and the West have immensely contributed to the cultural status of both countries. Hence, from his philosophy and artwork, we can determine that the contributions of his two heritages were immense. First, it offered him a platform to express his ideas from an informed point of view, without any bias to either side (Levin 17). More so, it allowed him to use the cultural values to apply in his artwork, thus making it more culturally and art wise rich. Furthermore, his stance towards militarism changed, and he was able to express his attitude towards the militarization and war.

Having the same skill and talent as Yasuo Kuniyoshi, I would use it to provide art that is against crime, wars and human suffering caused by problems that can be avoided. In this way, I would be able to ward off crimes against humanity by means of art and therefore enable the peacekeeping efforts. Furthermore, in a world that is de-culturing, art and proper talent application would enable me to take part in building and encouraging the appreciation of different cultural values. Moreover, talent is the most convenient way of passing on relevant philosophies and education (Fowler 45). Apart from this is the current globalization. By using my talent in art well, I can fight issues that have arisen and are contrary to integral values of the society. I would further use art to empower the people of the community who are disadvantaged or are not in a position to express their ideas conventionally. For example, drawings, cartoons, comic art, among others, are perfect ways of passing information satirically and without creating enmity. Hence, the use of art is a powerful tool that I would use to empower myself and the world on the core issues that affect people. Finally, it is an excellent avenue to make a living from in a genuine and entertaining way. Hence, art would be my favorite way of passing information while at the same time entertaining the audience without offending them. In conclusion, it is evident that the art and philosophy of Yasuo Kuniyoshi was part of his life and nature. It is an encouraging kind of life that Kuniyoshi was able to live despite being opposed by American people, laws and governments, and hated for no reason. Yasuo Kuniyoshi demonstrated the capability of art to impact the society positively, and he maintained a practical philosophy all through. Such a lifestyle is worth emulating among the Americans as well as all over the world.

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